So Under Pressure

So Under Pressure

In the latest in the ‘Is this a touchy subject?’ series, Ben Pechey discusses dealing with stress

Dannii Minogue sings that she is so under pressure in her 2006 single, saying she needs to;

 

“Get a grip I’m almost gone

There’s just too much going on

Feel like I can hardly breathe”

It’s not just Dannii, we are all victims of pressure. I have had many conversations recently with close friends and one of the common denominators is the topic of pressure. We are going through so much personal turmoil alongside the daily grind, Brexit, Christmas and the rising cost of living. Whether we are trying to maintain a healthy relationship with social media, struggling with the social pressure of the upcoming election, or even the pressure to get enough sleep, it is clear that we’re all under a huge amount of stress.

But where is this actually coming from? What causes the pressure we all face? My opinion? That pressure is a strain of social conformity that’s rooted in fear. Pressure plays on the need to be liked, to be seen doing the right things and the desire to be the best version of ourselves. Thus, there will not be a single one of you reading this who has not experienced pressure in one form or another. (We all just want to be accepted!)

I’m adamant that left unchecked, all areas of our lives can be negatively affected by pressure. A great example to familiarise you with this discussion point is pressure creating a sense of inferiority. I did an arts degree, and a huge part of this was informal tutorials, where we would discuss our work, progress and receive advice/feedback. I would never really be able to take positives away from these tutorials because I would be sat there crippled by how good other people’s work was. The pressure I felt to be the best I could be, was fueled by the different ways other people worked. That pressure created a feeling of inferiority, leading to feeling creatively threatened. Not once was I ever told that my work was not the standard of others, nor was it ever bad, but the pressure I felt overtook all other thoughts and feelings.

Of course, a couple of years down the line with my degree a fading memory and the Certificate of a 1:1 collecting dust, it is clear I had nothing to worry about. Yet, I can feel a knot of dread and fear tightening in my stomach just recounting those experiences. Anyone who dismisses stress and the pressure of modern life as insubstantial is either incredibly deluded or a sociopath. The reason I can confidently make that statement is because the things that contribute to pressure are so insidious that they seep into environments and events that are supposed to be amazing experiences.

Take Christmas, it can turn the most loving people into the worst version of themselves, all because the gravy has lumps in it. Let’s not get into the oneupmanship gifting can bring. Pressure and its associated stress is toxic and exhausting, and it’s real, thus we need practical advice to overcome the icy knots of dread and hot sweats of stress pressure causes.

With all my subjects that I discuss in this series; I try to bring clarity and perhaps solutions and actions that help create change, and bring you, the readers, a positive outlook. When it comes to the theme of pressure, it took a lot to break down all the issues that it causes to see the root problem.

In reality, our society has a lot to answer for, and the ‘norms’ that are being perpetuated need to be cancelled. People should be allowed to forge their own paths – so that instead of following in the footsteps of others, we are free to create our own unique realities. Pressure is a tricky one to nail down, because it’s very personal and has an isolating effect on us. On the whole, we tend to deal with pressure internally and alone, and thus we have to work with ourselves to solve it.

I had my lightbulb moment at the Restless Women and Power event last week. Sapphire of The Coven gave me the answer, through her eye-opening perspective on success. She described success as a moving goalpost that evolves with us, and that we get to define what success means to us. Success is personal, and unique to each of us. This is the key when it comes to tackling the effects of pressure.

We have the power to decide what is important to us, and in effect what we actually want to worry about. There is literally no need to feel pressure to be a certain way if that’s not what you want for your life. Once you realise that you call the shots, and beyond paying your bills and having a roof over your head, you get to decide what levels of concern and effort you make in the aspects of your life. Instead of feeling pressured, you should work towards feelings of personal accountability. Prioritizing and making an effort for things that align with your goals and aspirations – and is in no way harmful to your sense of self. Once you release the things that make you feel pressured, life doesn’t seem so bad. So give pressure the finger, because ultimately, your happiness is all that matters. 

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