Whether it is internal or external, modern life is full to the brim with pressure. Work is harder, and more competitive than it was in days gone by; schools are pushing students harder than ever before; relationships with friends, family and partners can become strained as we’re all always so busy, and our lives now move faster and switch off less frequently than ever before. No wonder we’re all stressed. With everything we do pushing us so far and how fast everything moves nowadays, it’s easy and normal to feel a lot of pressure. Pressure can be your biggest nemesis, but it can also be your friend, crazy, right? Sometimes we need a little pressure to get things done but when that pressure starts to build, just like a kettle or a volcano, something has to give.
Work is more stressful than ever. If you’re in work, it is probably filled with far more pressure than feels necessary, and if you’re out of work you are probably feeling the pressures of the system. Often it feels like a no win situation. Work is one of the most common contributing factors to stress and there are so many reasons why work stresses us out, but why?
I am not going to answer than question, I can’t. I can answer it for myself and I can have a go at answering it for the people I know but work stress and the pressure it put on us is personal. I will counter it though.
Why does work stress us out so much? Stay with me. As much as it feels like we sometimes spend more time at work than at home, and as much as deadlines, meetings and reviews can pile on more pressure, we don’t live at work. We don’t live to work. Our bosses and companies are not (usually) our families and they do not own us. Now, I understand that this can be seen as a naive view of work, but when you really get down to a foundation level of it all, it’s just work. It can feel like so much more than that sometimes, but really, it’s just work. It’s not your whole life unless you want it to be or allow it to be and it doesn’t have to take over everything.
That’s why self care is so important. When you come home from work it is vital that you let yourself come home, or on the flip side, if you are not working currently it is paramount that you allow yourself to realise that your work status does not define your worth. Taking time out each day to do something you enjoy, be that doing something super active, or doing absolutely nothing, it doesn’t matter. It depends on how much free time you get as to how much you can dedicate to this, but no matter how much time we don’t think we have, we always have a spare 10 minutes to take a few minutes out to do something that will make us happy. Similarly, if you feel you have too much time, spend time doing something you find both interesting and beneficial to you. This is not a time for judgment. It is a time for being authentically you and making you happy.
Internal pressure. The best kind. (not). So often, so much of the pressure we feel comes straight from ourselves. We aren’t successful enough, attractive enough, wealthy enough, xyz enough. Everyone else is always better off than us and we’re always playing a game of catch up to try to be as happy/well off/insert anything positive here as those around us. Except they’re doing the same thing. And the people that they’re comparing themselves to are doing the same thing. Are you noticing a pattern?
Not all internal pressure comes from comparison, it has a multitude of causes and roots but often at a basic level, we are guilty of comparing ourselves to something. Sometimes it’s as clean cut as comparing ourselves to other people. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we are subconsciously comparing ourselves to ourselves. A version of us from the past or an idealised version of what we think we should be.
Much like a pot on the stove that’s about to boil over, lifting the lid can release a lot of pressure. We are here and we are who we are now. We are a mix of all that has happened to us and all that will happen. We may be where we want to be or we may be what feels like a thousand miles away from where we want, but we must appreciate where we have come from and look ahead to where we are going with the knowledge that we may not get there overnight, but everything, including ourselves, takes time. This is not always an easy thing to realise alone and if you are struggling with internal pressures, or any kind of mental weight that you feel you can’t get a hold of, seek help. There is nothing except strength in seeking help and help can bring us around to realisations we may not come to alone.
Friends, family, relationships, social media, so on and so forth. Modern life is full of external pressure but the good thing it is that it is probably the easiest to switch off.
No is a powerful word. Using it properly, however, is not always the easiest thing to do. Whenever things get too much and we feel people are asking too much of us, literally or figuratively, we do always have the option to say no. No doesn’t feel easy and no doesn’t feel natural sometimes, especially if it’s in our nature to be a people pleaser, but no is one of the most important words we can have in our vocabulary. If we begin to decline everything, then that can be a problem in itself, but putting ourselves in first place once in a while and respecting our mental wellbeing cannot be put aside and it is at times when we need to do this that we must learn to say no to people who are asking for too much of us at a particular time. No can be said politely and it can work wonders for our wellbeing to say it sometimes.
Saying no to everything, however, can be isolating. It is a case of learning about yourself and knowing what you can and cannot comfortably handle. Ask yourself ‘will this make me feel better or worse?’ and choose your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ according to that.
Pressure is everywhere in the modern world, but it doesn’t have to rule our lives. A little self love, some mindfulness, and an awareness of how far we have come and how much we still have left to accomplish (in our own time) can go a long, long way in turning down the heat.