Under Pressure? Learn to Let Go

I recently listened to Under Pressure, the song by David Bowie and Queen, and it dawned on me how accurately it depicts the feeling of pressure we so often experience, for example, to change a behavior, act or look a certain way, or achieve success. As any emotion or feeling, some aspects of pressure are helpful, others are not.  While pressure can help us push through when we want to give up or fuel us to perform well, it often creates internal chaos that adds to confusion and stress. 

When we pressure ourselves or others pressure us, it often comes from a place of control, from dislike, or from a lack of acceptance.  Feeling pressured can trigger our own anger and defensiveness or feelings of guilt and shame, making change difficult, pushing us away from meeting our goals, and creating disconnection from others.

So how can we cope differently with a sense of pressure? First, it’s important to figure out where the pressure is coming from—ourselves or someone else—and talk about it with someone we trust. Doing so can help us identify our thoughts, feelings, and fears about the situation.

Second, once we’ve identified the source of pressure, we can implement solutions.  If the pressure is coming externally (eg, from family, friends, co-workers, or even society), we can ask ourselves, “What do I want this person to say that would be more supportive and accepting?”  and hopefully share that with them.  If you are feeling pressure from others, see if you can use the experience as an opportunity to identify your feelings and needs, share them with others, and turn pressure into support, acceptance, and an improved relationship. 

Third, if the pressure is coming from within, ask yourself, “What can I say to myself that is more supportive and accepting?”  The key to decreasing internal pressure is evaluate it,  understand it, and make changes if possible, such as reframing a negative inner dialogue into a more self-compassionate narrative.

Here are some strategies that you may find helpful when you’re feeling under pressure:

  • Accept that we all have weaknesses and decrease perfectionistic thinking about yourself and others
  • Use positive thinking phrases rather than negative phrases
  • Understand your fear and get to the bottom of it
  • Let go of anger
  • Change your situation 
  • Evaluate your goals and values 
  • Practice gratitude
  • Ask for help
  • Be honest with your abilities with self and others 

Wherever the pressure is coming from, it is manageable! Now how can you start to take the pressure off?  

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