Pressure! Some people hate it. Other people thrive on it.
We all react to pressure differently and have different levels of pressure we can cope with.
This is because when we experience the right amount of challenge and interest, chemicals are released in our brain (noradrenaline and dopamine), which make us more alert, motivated and ready to learn.
Researchers and educators often refer to this as the Goldilocks zone. This is the zone of optimal performance where we are working on a task or learning something that is neither too hard, nor too easy.
Just like the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears it is ‘just right’.
This zone has parallel ideas with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’, which is a state that a person experiences when they have the right level of skill and the right amount of challenge. If one of those elements is missing they either end up anxious, bored or somewhere in-between.
If you haven’t already, it’s worth checking out Mihaly’s TED talk on this.
So how do you know when the pressure is just right or too much?
Pressure can become unhealthy when you feel like you:
- Have no control or autonomy
- Are making little or no progress
- Have so much to do it feels overwhelming
- Are going backwards
- Are ruminating about the same issues – again and again
Life is a series of ups and downs. Progress is never linear. Living life through the peaks and troughs successfully and sustainably is about finding ways to release the pressure.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Be clear on what you can change and what you can’t change. It’s easy to spend a lot of time focusing on the things we can’t change, rather than directing our energy towards those we can change
- Take the time to stop, breath, reflect and then respond to an event. This helps ensure that your actions are more mindful, and less reactive
- Identify tools you can use to help you make decisions – when you are faced with an unwelcome situation, work through the options and what decisions you can and can’t take. Feeling like you have a choice as to your response helps you feel a sense of empowerment
- Adopt a gratitude mantra because expressing gratitude is scientifically proven to help you feel happier, more resilient and less stressed
- Do something nice for someone else as doing good things and helping others makes you feel good about yourself
- Strive to find purpose and meaning in your life – people with purpose are generally happier and more resilient as they are clear about their goals and where they are heading in life
- Learn to say no and be confident with saying no to things that aren’t good for you
- Maintain strong connections with friends and family – sharing how you feel, talking to people and being open about experiences is healthy and good for the soul
- Exercise often, eating well, meditating and laughing lots are all key ingredients for releasing the pressure valve
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.comor contact firstname.lastname@example.org.