The words pressure and stress are often used interchangeably, but do they actually mean the same thing?
When I think of pressure, I think of working under a set of demands that are stimulating and designed to stretch my abilities. Having this pressure on me to succeed is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s that feeling that I need to rise to the challenge and push myself further that often helps me achieve my goals, and I couldn’t do that with out some degree of pressure.
So how does this differ from the experience of stress?
Sometimes, when we’re under a lot of pressure, the demands that are placed on us by our situation can exceed our ability to cope effectively. When we reach this point, when we start to feel overstretched or strained by the demands placed upon us, that’s when we begin to drift into the realm of stress.
When trying to manage the challenge of recovery from anxiety, OCD or an eating disorder, being able to recognise the difference between pressure and stress can be a key skill to master.
So next time you’re facing a demanding set of circumstances, take a moment to reflect on what it is you’re facing and ask yourself: is this pressure or is this stress? Can I cope with the demands placed on me, and will those demands help me perform at my best, or do I need to ask for help or take a step back?
It’s good to set expectations for yourself. When we have a goal to work towards, the pressure association with achieving that goal can help us stay on track and fulfill our potential – this is a good thing! But if the demands we are placing on ourselves are exceeding our ability to cope, then stress and even anxiety can soon start to dictate our mood.
That’s when we need to learn to assert ourselves, and say ‘no!’