How to Stop Putting Pressure on Yourself (18 Effective Ways)

Have you ever felt a heavy weight on your chest, thinking about all the things you need to do perfectly? Many of us push ourselves too hard, believing we must achieve everything at once. But the truth is, It’s okay not to be perfect. In fact, it’s more than okay—it’s normal.

In this article, we’ll explore simple and practical ways to stop being so hard on yourself and start enjoying the journey.

So, are you ready to let go of that self-imposed pressure? Keep reading, and let’s find out how to make that change.

Identify the Reasons for Your Self-Imposed Pressure

Sometimes, we’re our own toughest critics without even realizing it. Reflecting on the reasons behind the pressure allows us to challenge the unnecessary demands we place on ourselves.

Is it from trying to meet others’ expectations, or maybe it’s your own high standards? Knowing the “why” can help you tackle the issue more effectively. 

Start by asking yourself, “What’s really causing this pressure?” You might find that some of it comes from outdated beliefs or goals that no longer serve you, and letting go of these can significantly lighten your load.

"Check in with you first! Try to be objective and evaluate why you put so much pressure on yourself… As you start to identify the underlying reasons that cause you to put so much pressure on yourself, you will find that you will already feel lighter."

— Ellie Borden, BA, RP, CPP | Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design®

Recognize Your Limits

It’s okay to admit you can’t do everything. Think of it as knowing when your plate is full so you don’t end up dropping your dinner. Recognizing this helps us avoid taking on too much and feeling swamped.

Try this out:

  • List what you’re working on.
  • Are any of these making you feel overwhelmed?
  • Time to choose—what can you cut back on?

Knowing your boundaries makes it easier to make choices that fit you best, and picking what’s most important keeps your energy levels high and stress levels low.

Set Achievable Goals

Setting big goals is great, but let’s make sure you can reach them without freaking out. If your goal is as big as climbing Everest by tomorrow, maybe it’s time to rethink. Setting goals you can achieve makes the journey more enjoyable and less of a strain. 

Think of small wins, like cleaning your desk or finishing a report. These mini-victories add up and boost your confidence. It’s like leveling up in a game, one small mission at a time.

"It is essential to set realistic expectations for yourself. If you set your sights too high, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Remember that you are human and that you are not perfect. Accepting your flaws and imperfections is an important step in learning to love yourself."

— Dr. Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani | Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Psyclarity Health

Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

Facing a giant task? Cut it down to size. Tackling a little bit at a time keeps things manageable. It’s like eating a cake slice by slice instead of all at once.

Here’s a game plan:

  1. Write down the big task.
  2. Slice it into mini-tasks.
  3. Start with the easiest piece.

It’s like having a to-do list for a big project but breaking it down into daily actions. This way, you get the joy of crossing things off your list bit by bit.

Embrace Imperfections

Perfection is like a unicorn—great in stories, but not in real life. We all have flaws, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s not okay is beating yourself up over them.

Here are some tips:

  • Look at what you often criticize about yourself.
  • Find the strength or uniqueness in those flaws.
  • Do not forget to give yourself a break and a pat on the back.

Accepting your imperfections lightens your load and clears the way to more enjoyment in life. Who wants to worry about a tiny typo if the whole story sings?

"Recognize that no one is flawless. You will get more stressed if you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect. We're all just people. We all have strengths and weaknesses, as well as limits and boundaries. Life is all about accepting and living with our imperfections."

— Jessica Miller | Licensed Mental Health Counselor, PsycheMag

Focus on Progress

Isn’t it awesome to look back and see how far you’ve come? That’s what focusing on progress is all about.

Think of it as your personal scorecard, where every bit of effort counts. Whether it’s solving a challenging problem at work or finally starting on that project at home, each step is a piece of the puzzle coming together. After all, improvement is a sign that you’re on the right path.

Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrating small wins keeps your spirits up and helps you keep pressing forward. Did you finish a report on time? Did you manage to wake up early for a jog? That’s win material right there!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Keep a list of what you’ve accomplished each day.
  • Even if they seem tiny, recognize them.
  • Throw yourself a high-five, do a happy dance, and treat yourself to something nice.

This practice turns your attention to the positive, fueling your journey forward.

Adjust Expectations Regularly

What you can do today might not be the same tomorrow, and that’s totally fine. You’re not a robot programmed to perform at the same level every day. Life has ups and downs, so it makes sense to tweak your expectations to fit reality.

Adapting your expectations ensures you’re in harmony with your current capabilities and circumstances. So, take a moment now and then to reassess your goals. It’s okay to shift gears or change the plan.

Acknowledge the Learning Process

Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? It wasn’t about getting from A to B; it was about staying upright! Learning anything new, whether in life or work, is the same deal. 

Keep these in mind:

  • Each mistake is a lesson, not a defeat.
  • Give yourself the space to grow from them.
  • Have patience—nobody becomes a pro overnight.

Understanding that learning is a process—full of ups and downs—takes the pressure off. You’re not expected to nail everything on the first try, and that’s completely fine.

"Making mistakes is a part of life, and we all do it. What counts is how you deal with your mistakes. Use them as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than beating yourself up over them."

— Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP | Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

Accept That We All Have Weaknesses

We all have things we’re not great at, and guess what? That’s totally normal. Accepting your weaknesses—and those of others—fosters a sense of compassion and understanding. 

Stick to these little reminders:

  • Acknowledge where you’re not so strong, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • Understand that everyone else is in the same boat.
  • Lean into your strengths instead of focusing on fixing every single flaw.

Foster Positive Self-Talk

The way you chat with yourself can make a huge difference. If you’re always down on yourself, it’s like walking around with a personal raincloud. 

Replacing harsh criticism with positive affirmations can transform how we approach challenges. Think of it as having a supportive friend in your head, cheering you on instead of putting you down.

Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” try, “I’ll give it my best shot.” Small shifts in language can lead to big changes in attitude. It might feel odd at first, but with practice, it becomes second nature.

"What are you going to remember, possibly years from now? Probably the last slightly critical comment! Unfortunately, that is human nature. But we can "rewire" ourselves. Start by reminding yourself that you do many things well, not everything, but many things."

— Naomi Angoff Chedd | Director of Support Services and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Counslr | Co-author, “Attacking Anxiety

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude

Turning the spotlight from pressure to gratitude can make a world of difference. Rather than zooming in on the must-dos and should-haves, shift your attention to the good stuff already in your life. 

Here’s how to switch gears:

  • Each day, find some moments to be thankful for—the smell of morning coffee, a stranger’s smile, or a job well done.
  • When the going gets tough, take a deep breath and think of one thing going right.
  • Before bed, think of the best part of your day. It’s like giving yourself a mental high five!

Gratitude doesn’t make challenges disappear, but it gives you a more positive lens to view them.

"If we can train our brains to practice daily gratitude, it can help our minds shift from a pessimistic outlook to an optimistic one. Reminding ourselves of our successes, even seemingly small ones, and past growth can give us relief from the pressure we place on ourselves."

— Ellie Borden, BA, RP, CPP | Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design®

Challenge Negative Self-Talk

That little voice in your head saying you’re not good enough? It’s time to show it the door. When negative chatter starts, be ready to challenge it with the truth: you are capable and worthy.

Here’s the plan:

  • Catch yourself when you’re in a loop of negative thoughts.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Spoiler alert: It usually isn’t.
  • Replace those harsh words with kind, true ones.

Slowly, this is making you tougher on the inside and gentler with yourself.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Slowing down in a fast-paced world might seem counterintuitive, but mindfulness and meditation offer a peaceful counterbalance. These practices invite us to pause, breathe deeply, and be present. It’s like finding a quiet corner in a noisy room where you can hear yourself think.

You don’t need hours for these practices; even a few minutes can make a difference. It’s about creating short pauses in your day to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting swept away.

Whether it’s while drinking your morning coffee or during a midday walk, these practices ground you in the now, reducing stress and fostering a calm, clear approach to life’s challenges.

Disconnect from Social Comparisons

Seeing everyone’s highlight reel on social media all day? It’s easy to start comparing and feel like you’re not measuring up. Well, it’s time to disconnect from those comparisons; they’re not fair to you.

Everyone’s journey is unique, including yours. Measuring your progress against someone else’s can skew your perspective, turning harmless aspirations into sources of unnecessary pressure.

If social media gets too much, take a step back. Unfollow, mute, or take a social media break. You might just find joy in your own journey without the filter of comparison. Remember, life is not a competition.

Seek Support from Friends and Family

Remember that you’re not alone in this. The people who care about you can be your strongest allies when you’re under pressure. They’re like your personal cheer squad!

Here’s how you can lean on your circle:

  • Reach out and share what’s on your mind. Sometimes, just talking about it helps.
  • Let them give you a hand or just some good company.
  • Appreciate their support, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Whether it’s a long chat over coffee or a comforting text message, these connections remind us we’re not alone.

"If you need help, reach out or delegate. Doing this gives your psyche the unconscious message that you're not alone, you are resourceful, you give your best (most of the time), and showing up as you is the best thing you can give to yourself and those you serve."

— Tracy Taris |Licensed Therapist | Speaker | Author, “Many Voices One Truth"

Learn to Say No

Saying “yes” might feel good in the moment, but if it’s leading to overwhelm, it’s time to start practicing “no.” It’s not being rude; it’s staying true to what you can handle.

Keep these in mind:

  • Consider your time precious, and say “no” when necessary.
  • Offer an alternative when you can, but be firm.
  • Feel the relief as you take control of your commitments.

Each “no” can be a “yes” to something else, like your peace of mind or time. It’s about balance!

Remind Yourself of Your Values and Passions

Staying connected to what truly moves and motivates you can be a powerful antidote to pressure. It’s keeping your core interests and principles front and center, guiding your daily actions and decisions. 

Make it a habit to check in with yourself regularly. Ask, “Am I staying true to what’s important to me?” This reminder can help shift your focus from what you “should” do to what you “want” to do.

Keeping your values and passions close reminds you of what’s truly important, giving meaning to your effort and easing the pressure of daily demands. Remember, you’re living for the things you love, not just checking off boxes.

More Expert Insights

“But in order to take pressure off of yourself (and enjoy your work a lot more), consider yourself a student of your craft… Yes, you’ll have setbacks. You’ll make mistakes and face challenges. But the person who never stops learning doesn’t see pressure. They only see growth. And that’s a beautiful sight to see.”

— Jennifer Kropf | Founder and Chief Blogger, Healthy Happy Impactful

“Striving for perfection is normal, even admirable. But focusing exclusively on making everything exact diminishes our sense of accomplishment and often robs us of our happiness.”

— Naomi Angoff Chedd | Director of Support Services and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Counslr | Co-author, “Attacking Anxiety

“As we accomplish each of those small steps, if we can talk in a kind and praising way to ourselves like we’d say to a child or a friend, if we can find gentle ways to encourage ourselves along the path, this can help us connect more with our successes.”

Risa Williams, LMFT | Licensed Psychotherapist | Author, “The Ultimate Time Management Toolkit“ | Podcast Host, “The Motivation Mindset with Risa Williams”

“It’s common for our self-talk not to be based on the evidence we have—they are usually the result of catastrophic thinking or worst-case scenario thinking. To replace these thoughts, examine the evidence in your real life to come up with a more optimistic, productive, realistic thought.”

— Becky Bernard Stuempfig | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Encinitas Therapy

“Remind yourself that you can’t do it all. Of course, we all want to be Superman or Superwoman…But you are not a superhero. You’re human, you are amazing, and you can do a lot. But you can’t do it all. You need to remind yourself of this fact so that you aren’t too harsh on yourself if something gets undone.”

— AJ Silberman-Moffitt |Senior Editor, Tandem

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I differentiate between healthy motivation and putting too much pressure on myself?

Healthy motivation inspires and energizes you, while too much pressure can lead to anxiety and burnout. If you find yourself feeling chronically stressed or dreading tasks, it’s time to reassess and ease the pressure.

What should I do if I can’t seem to ease the pressure on my own?

Consider reaching out to a professional, such as a therapist or counselor, who can provide personalized strategies and support to help you manage and reduce the pressure you’re experiencing.

How long does it take to change the habit of putting too much pressure on myself?

Changing this habit is a gradual process and varies from person to person. With consistent effort and self-compassion, you might begin to notice changes in a few weeks, but lasting change can take longer. Patience and persistence are key.

How can I ensure that taking a break doesn’t lead to procrastination?

Schedule your breaks just like any other appointment, and keep them limited to specific times. This structure can enhance productivity by providing a designated time for rest without accidentally extending into your work time.

Final Thoughts

Remember that easing up on yourself doesn’t mean you’re slowing down or doing less. It means you’re choosing to be kind to yourself, to recognize when you’ve done enough, and to understand that it’s okay not to carry the world on your shoulders.

Take these tips and see how they work for you. Adjust as you go, and find the balance that makes you feel steady and strong. Here’s to breathing easier and enjoying the ride a bit more.

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Robby is a multimedia editor at UpJourney with a journalism and communications background.

When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.