Where Does Pressure Come From?

I often reflect on this question and am curious about its source. I’ve realised for me, and many people I have worked with, that it comes from inside. The pressure to succeed, to look good, to know it all, to deliver results, to be the first, to not make any mistakes, to stand out from the crowd, to contribute, to speak up – you can fill in the blanks as the list seems to go and on in our minds. Sometimes it feels like the noise of internal pressure is endless.

While there is no doubt a fair amount of pressure comes from the outside, it is our relationship with internal pressure that creates the pathway to sustainable success and well-being, or burnout, overwhelm and disease.

So what to do with this? How do we change our relationship to pressure?

First it’s useful to recognise our relationship to pressure and acknowledge its source. Then to notice the impact it has on our bodies – our breathing, our sensations, the tension and stress it creates as it flies under the radar of our awareness. And next to notice the impact it has on our emotional well-being and our mindset.

So how can we work practically with this?

When you next notice pressure arising, stop/pause and become aware of your breathing. Notice the changes in your breathing and where you feel the pressure the most in your body. Aim to isolate areas like your jaw, your stomach, your shoulders. Get curious about where you feel it most intensely and how it affects your emotions, your mindset. Notice what your stories around pressure are in your mind, your thoughts, your assumptions.

Then begin to learn how to observe the pressure in a more detached way, like someone who is watching the flow of the river from the shore. While this is easier said than done, it is the consistent choice to build this muscle which over time yields results and teaches your body, mind and emotions a new way of responding to pressure. In time, this choice becomes a habit and enables your relationship to pressure to change.

So the next time you feel under pressure, ask yourself: “Where does pressure come from?” and get curious about your responses.

– Gavin Shaskolsky, Co-Founder of Virtual Coaching Partners

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