It’s no secret that some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Whether it’s striving to meet our professional goals, keeping up with our social media persona, or simply trying to be the best version of ourselves — it can be tough not to compare ourselves to others and constantly strive for more.
But what if there was a way to stop putting so much pressure on yourself?
Experts say that by making some simple changes, you can learn to let go of perfectionism and stop putting unnecessary stress on yourself. Here are their insights:
Becky Bernard Stuempfig
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Encinitas Therapy
Stay in the moment
We all need a healthy amount of internal pressure in order to feel motivated and accomplish our goals. However, when internal pressure becomes too intense, it can turn into an unhealthy mental pattern.
When we put pressure on ourselves, we are usually worried about something from the past or something happening in the future rather than living in the present moment.
Another word for this habit of living in the past or future is anxiety. When anxiety takes over, it takes our minds out of the present moment and brings us either back in time or propels our minds into the future.
Related: How to Help Someone With Anxiety
When we place an unhealthy amount of pressure on ourselves, we may be focusing on something that happened in the past that we can’t change or worried about pleasing others or living up to someone else’s expectations in future scenarios that haven’t happened yet.
Our minds are not in sync with our bodies when we are in an anxious state.
Mindfulness, or the practice of awareness of the present moment, can help us reduce time spent placing pressure on ourselves by training our brains to focus on what is happening right now, allowing us to enjoy the current moment instead of living in the past or future.
Examine your inner thought process
If we find ourselves placing too much pressure on ourselves, it can be helpful to examine our internal thought process or “self-talk.”
For example, when thinking about a recent stressful event, try to unpack what messages were going through your mind about yourself.
We can all get stuck in negative messages such as:
- “I will probably not get the promotion.”
- “I’m not qualified enough.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “If I can just make my partner happy/fix my partner/change my partner, then things will be better.”
It can be helpful to identify your self-talk and then examine the evidence you have for those messages. 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 such as:
- “I’ve worked really hard, and it’s possible I’ll get the promotion. If I don’t, there will probably be other opportunities soon.”
- “I can’t change my partner, and all I can do is control the way I react to situations.”
These shifts in internal messages can help reduce the pressure we place on ourselves on a daily basis by changing our thinking.
Oftentimes, when we place pressure on ourselves, we focus on everything that is going wrong in our lives, such as “I’ve had so many relationships that haven’t worked out. This one will probably end in disaster too.”
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.
Rather than focusing on past failed relationships, consider how those relationships have helped better define what kind of partner we want to be with, and consider the good times we experienced as part of our overall life journey.
If you find yourself focusing on negative events in the past, try reminding yourself of three positive events to create a more balanced way of thinking. Consider celebrating mini-successes daily and practice self-gratitude for those mini-successes.
- You made a healthy breakfast for yourself — celebrate!
- You got to work safely — celebrate!
- You sent a thoughtful, well-organized work email to a colleague — celebrate!
These mini-celebrations help us feel grateful for what’s going well while reducing the time we spend placing pressure on ourselves.
Focus on the process, not the results
We tend to be a result-oriented society; at times, we place an unhealthy amount of emphasis on the results rather than the process.
For example, we may not accomplish the result such as a work promotion, but so much hard work and effort went into working toward the promotion. Try to appreciate the “baby steps” that were accomplished along the way that were accomplished.
Common ways people put pressure on themselves
We all put pressure on ourselves — some of us more than others, but all of us do it.
Some people are predisposed to perfection
One of the most common and insidious culprits of pressure is perfectionism. Some of us are predisposed to perfection, and it’s a good thing in some situations — like landing a plane or performing a heart transplant.
But for most of us, wanting to get everything exactly right every single time can have the opposite effect. We may have the best intentions, but sometimes we end up sabotaging ourselves.
As the 19th-century painter Eugene Delacroix put it, “the artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
There’s another known saying (attributed to many, including Winston Churchill) that perfectionism is the enemy of progress. This suggests that it is better to move forward than to assume anything short of a perfect outcome is a failure.
This does not mean that we should be satisfied with a mediocre outcome. 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.
Social media affects our feelings of self-worth
We blame social media for every evil these days, and that isn’t fair. It connects us to the world and other people in ways we never imagined. But it has also contributed to a great deal of self-induced pressure, especially in relation to our self-image and feelings of self-worth.
It may also lead to unrealistic comparisons; we want to look like the enhanced, filtered, or sanitized version of others’ physical appearance, their accomplishments, and their “perfect” lives.
Often, that physical comparison relates to our weight, with pressure to be a specific size and shape and to have the whitest teeth, the shiniest hair, and the most stylish clothes.
We fail to realize that most of us look reasonably well most of the time! And what really counts is the content of our character. We constantly worry about what people think of us.
We must remember that most people are more concerned about their appearance than ours and what we think of them!
Some parents aren’t satisfied unless they can do it all
Parents place tremendous pressure on themselves — sometimes, it is necessary to get the job done. But some are not satisfied unless they can do it all and have it all.
They want to serve on the school committee, volunteer at the senior center, be a gourmet chef, and play racquetball three times a week while building a successful career and boasting a “magazine-worthy” home and enviable vegetable garden.
It’s simply not possible to achieve that level of perfection, although what we see online, on TV, or in our imaginations tells us something different.
What quick and simple steps can someone take to stop putting pressure on themselves?
Practice positive self-talk
We all engage in an internal dialogue, giving ourselves positive and negative messages. We tend to ruminate about the negatives while neglecting the many positives in our lives.
For example, a relative at a holiday party may comment on how wonderful the dinner was, that the dessert was the best they’d ever tasted, that your home looked beautiful and festive, and that your children were well-behaved and beautifully dressed.
You may overhear another comment that maybe the stuffing was a bit dry. 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.
What is a long-term practice someone can implement to escape self-imposed pressure?
Recognize that you are putting pressure on yourself
The first step is to recognize that you (and not external forces) are putting pressure on yourself. So, you have the power to stop or at least limit it. You can change the way you think about things. First, though, you have to “name the beast.” Only then can you take steps to tame it!
This is easier said than done, however. Many of us need help and support to understand the root causes of our pressure and how to address it in a way that works best in our particular circumstances.
We may be replaying conversations (and often criticisms) in our minds from years ago, even dating back to early childhood. Once we realize where these messages are coming from, it’s much easier to delete them.
Seek professional help
Fortunately, we have more access than ever before to options that can help us navigate mental wellness.
For example, schools, corporations, and other institutions are increasingly providing mental health benefits and empowering their members with wellness applications like our organization, a 24/7/365 text-based platform that connects the user with a licensed counselor.
Being able to chat about life’s small and sometimes larger annoyances and challenges and our responses to them can reduce their impact, preventing them from escalating and causing us serious or long-term distress.
In addition to unearthing where the pressure is coming from, mental health professionals can tailor tips to help alleviate pressure and perhaps help us avoid it in the future — so you can get on with the activities and goals that are important to you.
Remember: it is not a weakness but a strength to reach out for help — and it can lead to many improvements and greater satisfaction in life.
Tips to help minimize pressure from a licensed counselor
While suggestions should be tailored to each individual and their particular circumstances, there are a few best practices that benefit the majority of people, including:
Focus on gratitude
It’s normal for our brains to seek out the wrongs actively but focusing on what’s going right is one of the most influential and effective practices we can undertake to lighten our psychological load.
Take a break from social media
Taking a break from social media (especially for young people) and the relentless, often negative, 24/7 cycle of news. Remind yourself that you cannot fix everything.
While it is impossible (and perhaps unsafe) to fully detach ourselves from the world, it is healthy to institute periodic “media blackouts” and/or have times on a regular basis during which you put the phone/screen away for a set amount of time.
Take time to get outside and/or workout
Exercise continues to be a major path to physical and mental health. Whether you’re more inclined to sign up for a class, participate in a virtual yoga program or take frequent brisk walks, physical activity makes just about every aspect of life better.
Join a group
Although sometimes it feels that way, we are not alone. It’s a matter of identifying like-minded individuals probably experiencing similar challenges.
Getting and giving support to others leads to deeper human connections, as well as likely solutions that you may not have considered when it comes to alleviating the stress that personal pressure can create.
Go ahead and laugh!
Laughter stimulates all your muscles and organs, strengthens your immune system, and releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals. Watching a rom-com, playing an old-fashioned board game, sharing a private joke with a dear friend, or reading a funny book are great ways to release anxiety associated with life’s pressures.
Related: The Healing Power of Laughter
Ellie Borden, BA, RP, CPP
Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design®
At times, many of us may struggle with the tendency to put too much pressure on ourselves. While some pressure can help us accomplish our goals, it can become a problem when the demands we place on ourselves exceed our capabilities, circumstances, and available time.
People who are perfectionists often do this to themselves, and the results can be quite counterproductive. The traits of perfectionism are associated with such mental health risks as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and increased rates of suicide.
Evaluate why you put so much pressure on yourself
Here’s where to start improving this area of your life. Check in with you first! Try to be objective and evaluate why you put so much pressure on yourself:
- Does the busyness help you avoid a more profound issue?
- Are you unhappy in certain parts of your life, and doing this gives you an excuse not to fix those areas because you find them overwhelming and don’t want to face them?
- Do you not feel worthy, or do you feel that you will never be good enough, and you’re trying to prove to yourself or others that you can take on the world?
- Do you equate your self-esteem with your external accomplishments?
- Have you had bad experiences and felt that if you take the pressure off, everything will fall apart again or that you will lose everything that you have worked so hard for?
If any of these hit home and remain unaddressed, you will continue to have difficulty. 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.
Here are some things to remember and tell yourself when putting too much pressure on yourself:
- Nobody is perfect!
- Your accomplishments do not define your self-worth.
- Taking on anything and everything is not the definition of strength.
- It’s ok to ask for help.
- Avoiding an underlying problem will only lead to anxiety and depression — actually, avoidance is anxiety’s best friend.
- Being busy doesn’t mean being productive. Focus on quality over quantity.
- Success doesn’t mean burnout. Don’t be a martyr!
- Failing is not trying again when something doesn’t work out. Invite lessons, and don’t avoid “failure.”
- I need ___________, and that is why I am putting so much pressure on myself. E.g., I need to feel validated/heard/acknowledged, which is why I am putting so much pressure on myself.
Here are some tips to help you think more clearly and take a step back to evaluate the situation accurately and better cope with your responsibilities.
Practice mindfulness and proper self-care techniques
Practicing mindfulness and proper self-care techniques such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises have been found to decrease stress, combat depression significantly, and improve cognition and mood.
Wildly successful people, from Oprah Winfrey to Bill Gates, practice mindfulness techniques. Even taking a few minutes a day to engage in mindfulness can help you cope with the effects of the pressure you put on yourself while maintaining peak performance.
Reach out for professional help
Your therapist can help you to understand the reasons you put too much pressure on yourself, as well as strategies on how to tackle your responsibilities better. Cognitive behavioral therapy can treat perfectionism.
A therapist can train you to notice the signs of putting too much pressure on yourself, as well as how to stop negative thoughts such as viewing a minor failure or setback as a catastrophic event.
Reach out for professional help if you think you may be putting too much pressure on yourself.
Practice exercise regularly
Physical exercise has many mental health benefits, such as:
- Reducing anxiety and depression.
- Improving self-esteem and cognitive functioning.
Regular exercise can also enhance sleep quality, relieve stress, and increase energy levels and mental alertness — giving you an edge when you have much work to do.
Mary Joye, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Winter Haven Counseling
Here are three main ways to stop putting so much pressure on yourself.
Be conscious of your subconscious drives
What is driving you to put pressure on yourself? Ask yourself these very important questions:
- Is this coming from a parent or a spouse?
- Are you competing with one of your friends or family members?
- What is driving you to put so much pressure on yourself that it can cause you to fail at the very thing you’re trying to do?
A good therapist can help you find the answer if you can’t. They make connections between your past and present to help you move forward to your best future.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Right now, this moment, and forever more, stop comparing yourself to other people if it puts pressure on you. If you need to do a digital detox of social media.
People only put the best of themselves on there, and you cannot imagine what lurks behind the doors when they are offline. The best person to compete with is yourself, and that is what creates what psychologists call a personal best.
We have all heard of self-love, but the like in yourself is even more important. We can love abusive parents, but we don’t like them.
Self-love is necessary, but self-like is much more transformative.
Write down a list of all the things you like and dislike about yourself
Write down a list of all the things you like about yourself and improve those. Write all the things you don’t like about yourself and change those as best as you can.
You don’t need to have a punitive accountability partner, but sometimes it helps to have a responsible partner that you can keep in touch with when you’re both working on self-improvement.
That is not to say you’re working on each other. You don’t work on each other, just yourselves, and you talk about your accomplishments without judgment and anything that you’d still like to improve again with no judgment.
When you have a responsible partner, you are responsible for yourself. An accountability partner means you’re responsible to someone else. That is a more punitive perspective.
Do not look for external validation or advice from others
When we ask others for advice or need approval from others to feel good about ourselves, it creates pressure. Learn to trust your instincts and gut feelings. Make a list of a person you would like to be and do what you can each day to live toward it.
In this context or any context, the best way to live life it’s like you drive a car. The past is like a rearview mirror that you use for a reference guide. The windshield is huge so that you can move forward with ease.
You must be present in the car, look just a few cars ahead, and be cognizant of everyone around you.
So you drive your life without driving yourself crazy by being present, using your past as a guidance system when needed from the lessons you learned, and then moving forward without self-judgment or looking back.
Take the invisible gavel out of your hand, and when you stop judging yourself, all the pressure will subside.
Get some distance from your self-talk
The way we talk to ourselves is so important. We often go about saying thousands of really harsh and unfair things to ourselves that we wouldn’t say to other people.
Get some distance from your self-talk, pull back once in a while and when you catch yourself saying something unfair to yourself, try to think, “that’s a harsh thought.” Sometimes, just by identifying and labeling it, it starts to change how you talk to yourself.
You can also work in some gentler, self-soothing thoughts like, “I’m figuring things out one step at a time” or “I can go at my own pace with this project.”
It’s all about learning to self-regulate and manage the stress you generate for yourself with your thoughts that can help you find your way back to calm again.
Figure out the “good enough” marker for a project you’re working on
Another way to stop putting pressure on yourself is to figure out the “good enough” marker for a project or task you’re working on.
If you can establish the three things you need to accomplish to complete the task and write them down, it helps you from slipping into a “perfectionist” mindset.
What are the three things you would like to accomplish that seem like a reasonable sufficient setpoint for this particular task? If you do more than this, that can be considered a “bonus” that you give yourself extra credit and self-praise for doing.
Break bigger tasks down into smaller steps
By breaking bigger tasks down into smaller steps, we can reduce our overwhelm and stress.
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.
In this way, we can keep our stress from spiking and from talking to ourselves in a harsh and stressful way. It can help us regulate our own emotional states more regularly.
Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP
Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness
Holding yourself up to an impossible standard and then falling short of that standard can significantly impact your self-esteem.
However, it can be difficult to break out of the perfectionism trap. Here are some tips to help you stop putting pressure on yourself to be perfect:
Show yourself the compassion you show others
Would you treat your loved one the way you are treating yourself? Do you expect them to be perfect all the time? Chances are, you won’t, and you don’t.
So, be gentle with yourself and cut yourself some slack. Show yourself some empathy; you are human, after all.
Take mistakes as learning opportunities
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.
Focus on effort, not outcome
Instead of fixating on the end result, focus on putting in the effort. As long as you are trying your best, that’s all that matters. The outcome is beyond your control anyway, so why worry about it?
Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparison is the thief of joy. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, you will always find someone doing better than you, which can be very discouraging.
Focus on your own journey and celebrate your own successes, no matter how big or small they might be.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, PsycheMag
Refrain from trying to be a perfectionist
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.
You aren’t perfect and accept it. Whatever the hard time you are facing, accept it. Acceptance is the first step for change. If you do not accept things, you will never bring a change in your life.
Instead, take responsibility for the outcome without blaming yourself or excessively rejoicing, as applicable.
Balance your personal and professional life
Being a hard worker is good, but you must balance your personal and professional life. Your job, giving time to family and yourself, all things you have to do in 24 hours.
So give your 100% to your job during work, and give yourself time. Invest in your physical and mental health. Do exercise and read books.
It is a great idea to reduce stress. If you are feeling stressed and worried, think about three things for which you are grateful. It makes you optimistic. Express your gratitude to yourself, write it down, or thank someone. Gratitude also helps you to strengthen your bond with various people.
Licensed Therapist | Speaker | Author, “Many Voices One Truth“
Have a plan of action
Pressure is overrated. Whatever it is you need to do, it is what it is, and it’ll get done when you put your fingers to the task! One of the ways to stop putting pressure on yourself is to have a plan of action.
Take a look at what needs to be done, write down the components or tasks that need to be completed and designate times during the day that you will tackle them.
For example, if you’re a writer and you need to edit your manuscript before sending it to the actual editor, split the manuscript into three or four stacks.
Give yourself an hour to an hour and a half for each stack over the next few days, and work through it in chunks. We call this “chunking” — where you take pieces of a big project and work on small parts until you have worked all the way through the project.
If you are putting pressure on yourself with regard to trying to be perfect. Realize that no one is perfect. We all have the same 24 hours of time in which to work. Eight of those hours should go towards sleep, eight towards waking hours and life activities (family, home care, child care, etc.), and eight towards your work day.
Remind yourself that you are doing what you can
You don’t have to distribute your time this way evenly but whatever amount of time you give to your life activities, remind yourself that you are doing what you can with the resources you have.
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.
Dr. Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, DO, MPH, FAAFP, FASAM
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Psyclarity Health
Sometimes, the pressure we put on ourselves can be just as harmful as the pressure others put on us. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental and physical health problems.
If you find that you are constantly putting pressure on yourself to be perfect, it is crucial to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Here are some tips on how to stop putting pressure on yourself:
Identify the source of the pressure
Why do you feel the need to be perfect? Is it because of what others have told you? Or is it something you tell yourself?
Maybe you have internalized the message that you have to be perfect to be accepted. Once you identify the source of the pressure, you can begin to work on changing your mindset.
Change the way you look at failure
Failure is not the end of the world. It is simply a part of life. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has room for improvement. What matters is how you deal with failure.
Do you learn from your mistakes and use them as an opportunity to grow? Or do you let them define you? If you want to stop putting pressure on yourself, you need to start seeing failure as an opportunity, not a roadblock.
Related: Why Is Failure Important in Life?
Set realistic expectations
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.
Give yourself a break
It’s okay to take a break from time to time. In fact, it’s necessary. Constantly pushing yourself to the limit can lead to burnout.
If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and give yourself some time to relax and recharge. You will be surprised at how much better you feel when you give yourself a break.
Career and Leadership Coach | Founder, Oversight Global, LLC
There are a lot of things to worry about in life, but one of the biggest sources of stress is often self-imposed pressure. Here are a few tips on how to stop putting pressure on yourself and start living a more relaxed and enjoyable life:
Develop a growth mindset
The best way to stop putting pressure on yourself is by developing a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, you come to see your abilities as something that can be developed over time. This means that you’re constantly learning and challenging yourself, which takes the pressure off of performing perfectly.
Shift your focus from outcome-based to process-based goals
In addition, try to shift your focus from outcome-based to process-based goals. Outcome-based goals (such as “I want to be thin”) are often unrealistic and lead to intense pressure and anxiety.
Process-based goals (such as “I want to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly”) are more achievable and less stressful because they’re based on your actions, not your results.
Recognize your perfectionism
Recognize your perfectionism, that you have a perfectionist streak. Many people feel immense pressure to be perfect, but this is an impossible standard to meet. Accepting that you’re a perfectionist is the first step towards managing your stress levels better.
Set realistic goals
Trying to do too much can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Setting realistic goals allows you to accomplish more without feeling as though you’re in a pressure cooker.
Inspirational Speaker | Personal Growth Coach
Frame the pressure
The first step is the framing of pressure. When you become a high performer, the pressure becomes a privilege. Design leaders are always doing something new at higher levels than they ever have.
Because of this, pressure can become a good thing because that’s what you’ve designed (which is contrarian to how most perceive it).
Create a story about the pressure
The second step to stop putting pressure on yourself is creating a story about the pressure that serves you and elevates your identity. The story we tell ourselves creates our actions, and our actions create our results.
Therefore if you want to stop putting pressure on yourself, create the story or lens of the world that “I am always in flow.” Doing so removes the negative and replaces it with a more powerful version of yourself.
Be at peace with the pressure
The third step to stop putting pressure on yourself is being at peace with pressure. Peace is just a choice. When you understand at any moment, you can choose to be at peace with what you are experiencing, and the feeling goes away. This is something that can happen instantly.
Life Coach, Joyful Through It All
Reflect on the intention behind any goal
As a certified life coach, I see many people put pressure on themselves because of the expectations of other people. Many times, without realizing it, people hustle to prove that they are worthy or enough based on someone else’s standard.
The best way to stop this cycle is to reflect on the intention behind any goal. If it comes from anywhere other than from within, I encourage people to remember that the only standard is the one they choose to set for themselves.
Enjoy the rough journey
Another reason is that people tend to fixate on the destination rather than enjoying the journey. When people have goals, the natural instinct is often to try to check the box so that they can simply achieve the result.
However, slowing down and enjoying all the challenges and obstacles along the way is the best way to remove pressure and focus on growth.
Perfection isn’t the goal. Instead, it is about learning from the experiences along the way.
Susan Damico, M.A.
Director, Center for Resilient Children
For many, the desire to feel successful in both our personal and professional lives can lead us to put tremendous pressure on ourselves. While striving to do our best can be healthy and feel rewarding, we also need to recognize our limits.
Our organization often speaks about the importance of “self-care” and the fact that self-care is not “selfish.” In order to truly show up for those we love, lead, collaborate with, and care about, we need to put healthy limits in place.
Providing yourself with opportunities for self-care may sound easier said than done, so consider the following tips:
Create a “one day at a time” to-do list
Every day, the list of “to-dos” running through our minds can feel endless and, sometimes, overwhelming. And, if we don’t write something down, it might not happen. Consider developing a daily list of tasks and then prioritizing each item.
What really needs to happen today? Reflect on the list, make sure it is realistic, and then check it off your list when the task is completed! Marking “to-do” items as complete feel tremendous and helps instill a sense of accomplishment.
Give yourself a time out
Balance is key. It is not healthy for our bodies to be on overdrive all day long. As you make your daily “to-do” list, build a short block of time to daydream, read a book, listen to music, take a walk or engage in whatever activity helps you relax and re-energize.
You will be better able to tackle all of the “to-dos” when a sense of balance is brought to your daily routine.
Take a rest
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “The best bridge between despair and hope is often a good night’s sleep.” Do not underestimate the importance of sleep. When you make your “to-do” list, be sure to include the number of hours your mind and body need to be fully at rest.
A healthy sleep routine should not be something that takes a back seat. It should be a reoccurring item on our list!
Senior Editor, Tandem
Pressure can be very easy to feel. We feel pressure from work, pressure from our families, and even pressure from ourselves. In fact, sometimes, it feels like the most demanding pressure is self-imposed. But how can we stop putting pressure on ourselves?
Take inventory of your life
Just like companies will take an inventory of their stock, you need to take an inventory of your life. You’ll want to note what you are responsible for and what can be delegated to others.
Maybe you have too much on your plate, and reallocating some responsibility to others might help you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Of course, there may be some responsibilities that you can’t delegate, but the only way to find out is to list them first.
Give yourself a break
If the Kit Kat candy bar can say, “Give me a break,” you can say the same to yourself. A lot of time, when we feel pressured, it’s only the pressure we have put on ourselves. Maybe it’s cooking a big holiday dinner and having lots of friends and family at your house.
Do you personally have to cook everything from the first hors d’oeuvre to the last dessert? It’s okay to ask others if they can help you. And, when they do, that weight you were feeling will seem lighter.
Remind yourself that you can’t do it all
Of course, we all want to be Superman or Superwoman. That is if you are a DC Comics fan. For Marvel fans like me, maybe you want to be Thor Love and Thunder. These are characters in comic books and not members of the real world.
Of course, these superheroes look like they can do it all. 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.
Let out your inner Stuart Smalley
Some advice is so good that it gets used on many occasions, and this advice is an example of that. Stuart Smalley was a character on Saturday Night Live played by Al Franken.
He would look into a mirror and repeat this mantra, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And, doggone it, people like me!” Go ahead and let out your Stuart Smalley. If his mantra isn’t your cup of tea, find one that works for you.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “You yourself will always be the worst enemy you can encounter,” and he often was right. Stop being your own worst enemy. Because once you stop, you’ll realize that you’ve also stopped putting so much pressure on yourself.
Remote Work Expert
Like an impending hurricane with its dropping barometric pressure, you have the ability to drop an immense amount of pressure on yourself, creating a storm of epic proportions and eventually burnout.
Others, including your family and friends, coworkers, and bosses, also lay it on, but I’ll wager most of that pressure is applied by yourself from how you interpret and react to stimuli from outside and within.
So, how to lay off yours truly? It may sound easy and simple (and it is), but if you’re in the habit of being your worst critic, then it can take 30+ days to really change your habits around applying that pressure like a hot panini.
Do the positive self-talk
Positive self-talk is a go-to move. Instead of “I’ll never make this deadline” for the next three weeks, choose a soothing mantra such as “My team takes the correct steps every day to move us towards the finish line on time.”
Just saying this as often as you’d say the former phrase will inspire you and your entire team to make that a reality throughout each moment of each day. Think of the pressure you feel, and try to rephrase it in a way that empowers you to do something positive to relieve that pressure.
Is the pressure piling up due to procrastination? Never. Not Yet. Maybe Soon. Somewhat. Get the picture? Grab a great digital or analog planner and get into a system that works for you, your peers, and your colleagues.
Mark your due dates and work backward to determine which individual tasks come due on which dates to give yourself a chance to stay on track.
Better yet, if you know you procrastinate, leverage that knowledge by getting a virtual assistant or teaming up with someone who loves schedules and details to help keep you on track and hold you accountable.
Set a SMART goal
It might sound counterintuitive to set a goal to reduce pressure, but by setting a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound), you are actually setting a micro goal.
This can be a step towards a larger goal, which reduces the pressure of jumping right into the more long-term lofty goal. For example, let’s say you want to be a movie star. You can’t set a realistic goal to achieve that, so that you may feel overburdened with pressure.
But you can set a goal to go to 30 auditions in 30 days which is a SMART goal. Setting SMART goals and making incremental progress allows for success and celebration at each stage of your journey, regardless of its endpoint.
Just remember, pressure and time make diamonds. It’s ok if you perform well and enjoy a certain amount of pressure to up the ante. Just be mindful of how your body and mind react to and perform under those conditions, and know you can do something about it if it becomes too much.
In today’s work climate, it’s almost impossible to avoid stress altogether, but I believe going easy on yourself is a skill like any other that can be learned and honed as you go.
I don’t remember anyone ever teaching me this, and we grew up in an environment where we were always under pressure:
- To get good grades.
- To get into a good university.
- To be successful in life, etc.
What they don’t tell you and what you have to learn the hard way is what a negative impact this can have on your health and overall life quality. But the good thing is all of us can make small changes to our lives to help relieve some of this pressure.
De-clutter your life
Start with your space, and see what an effect that can have on your overall mindset. Clear out your closet, organize your office, and get rid of any unnecessary items in your home. This will free up space in your mind so that you can focus on more important things.
Related: How to Be More Organized
Set realistic goals
I always encourage people to be dreamers, but you have to set realistic goals; otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Don’t set goals that are too tough to achieve or that you don’t think you can realistically achieve. Setting achievable goals will help you stay motivated and on track and will also help you avoid feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.
Take care of yourself
Before you can take care of your family, friends, or business, make sure to take care of your mind, body, and spirit by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Doing these things will not only make you feel better physically, but it will also help reduce the amount of pressure you feel daily.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to better mental health and overall well-being.
It can also boost your immune system and increase your ability to think more clearly, solve problems, and handle difficult situations. Even five minutes a day can have a positive impact on your everyday life.
Founder and Chief Blogger, Healthy Happy Impactful
Be a perpetual student
Taking pressure off of yourself comes down to one thing. When you push yourself beyond reason, it’s because you believe that you must know everything and mistakes are not allowed. And finding out that you’re wrong about something could terrorize you for months.
This type of thinking is crippling, and it happens to many people. In fact, it’s the standard way of operating when you’re no longer a “beginner” at something.
But in order to take pressure off of yourself (and enjoy your work a lot more), consider yourself a student of your craft. From this perspective, the world is different.
Instead of worrying about whether you’re good enough, you’re putting all your energy into learning, improving, and making today better than yesterday; you enjoy contributing to the conversation without feeling the crippling pressure of performing. Your job and life are fun.
And you realize that it’s all just a game you can win as long as you keep learning. 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.
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Remember that no one is flawless
Yes, not even you. All of us are human. We have both strengths and weaknesses, as well as restrictions and constraints. There are things we excel at and those we struggle with.
This is part of living and being human. Recognizing and embracing that you are not perfect and that it is acceptable to be imperfect may enable you to release some of the strain you place on yourself.
Concentrate on yourself
Lessen your focus on what other people are saying or doing. Therefore, they may have a perfect existence, complete with a perfect marriage, a wonderful home, and ideal children. However, life is not like that. Concentrate on yourself and your actions. You need not be like other individuals.
Avoid taking on too much
You may desire a rich life, but there is a distinction between that and being overwhelmed. Strive for more balance in your life, ensuring that you engage in activities that satisfy you while also taking care of yourself.
Change your style of thinking
A proverb states, “If you can’t change the circumstances, change your attitude.” The way you see a situation might affect its outcome. You may discover that the strain you have placed on yourself begins to ease if you reframe your perspective.
Seek assistance when necessary
Accept what you cannot accomplish and seek assistance when necessary. Like me with the decorating, if I had had assistance from the beginning, I would have saved extra stress.
If there is something you feel you cannot do, it is OK to seek assistance. It will significantly lessen the strain you’ve placed on yourself to complete a task.
Reduce time spent on trivial tasks
You’re probably right if you feel like there’s too much to accomplish and not enough time to get to the most crucial tasks. Then it’s time to clear the clutter from your life. Pare down to the essentials and get rid of the extraneous.
The 80/20 rule can be used in the workplace, classroom, and daily life to help determine what you should focus on most. Asking yourself, “Is this what I’m doing right now useful?” several times a day might help you avoid getting bogged down in meaningless tasks.
If you need a nudge to ask yourself this question, write it down and post it somewhere, you’ll see it. You could even make that a screensaver! Having the awareness that you are not required to accomplish what you are doing is also crucial, in my opinion.
Your options are always open to you. There will be significant repercussions whether you do or do not do something. The choice is always yours, though. If you apply this thought to any aspect of your life, you’ll probably notice an improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens When You Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself?
Putting pressure on oneself is a typical behavior that people exhibit in many areas of their lives. While a certain amount of stress and pressure can help motivate and drive people to achieve their goals, too much pressure can lead to a range of negative consequences.
• Mental health issues: Constantly pressuring yourself to perform at a high level can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. The fear of failure and the feeling of never being good enough can be overwhelming.
• Physical symptoms: Too much pressure can also manifest itself physically. You may experience headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or difficulty sleeping.
• Burnout: Excessive pressure can lead to burnout, a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. You may lose motivation, feel detached, and experience a decrease in productivity.
• Self-doubt: The constant need to excel can create self-doubt and low self-esteem. You may feel like you are not good enough and will never be able to meet your own high standards.
• Strained relationships: If you constantly push yourself, you may also push away the people around you. You may become more irritable, distant, and less communicative.
• Inability to enjoy life: When you put too much pressure on yourself, you may not have time for activities that bring you joy. You may neglect your hobbies, relationships, and other aspects of your life.
Why Do I Keep Pressuring Myself?
As human beings, we all have goals and aspirations that we want to achieve in life. However, sometimes we may feel that we need to put pressure on ourselves in order to accomplish those goals. Here are some possible reasons why you might be pressuring yourself:
• Fear of failure: You might feel that if you fail, you will be seen as a failure by others or that you will disappoint yourself. This fear can lead to excessive pressure and stress.
• High expectations: If you have high expectations for yourself, you may feel the need to put pressure on yourself to meet those expectations. This can be especially true if you compare yourself to others who seem to have achieved more than you have.
• Perfectionism: Perfectionism is another common reason for pressuring oneself. If you are a perfectionist, you may feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. This can lead to a constant feeling of pressure to be perfect.
• Need for control: Some people feel that by pressuring themselves, they can control the outcome of a situation. This need for control can be linked to anxiety or a fear of the unknown.
• External pressure: Sometimes, external pressures from family, friends, or society can lead us to put pressure on ourselves. For example, if your family has high expectations for your academic or career success, you may feel that you need to put pressure on yourself to meet those expectations.
Why Can’t I Handle Pressure?
Pressure is a common experience in our lives, whether it’s a tight deadline at work or an upcoming exam. For some people, pressure can be a motivating force, but for others, it can be overwhelming and difficult to handle. If you find yourself struggling to cope with pressure, it’s essential to understand why this might be the case.
Here are some reasons why you may struggle to handle pressure:
Lack of experience
• Lack of experience or training in handling pressure can make it difficult to cope with high-pressure situations.
• This can be especially true for young people who have not yet had the opportunity to develop coping mechanisms and resilience.
Anxiety or other mental health conditions
• People with anxiety disorders may find it difficult to handle pressure, as they may experience intense feelings of worry and fear in stressful situations.
• Other mental health conditions, such as depression, can also affect a person’s ability to handle pressure.
• If you tend towards perfectionism, you may find it difficult to handle pressure as you may have unrealistic expectations for yourself.
• This can lead to feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt, making it hard to perform well under pressure.
Lack of preparation
• If you haven’t prepared adequately for a high-pressure situation, you may find it difficult to handle the pressure.
• Lack of preparation can lead to feelings of uncertainty and can make it difficult to perform at your best.
Poor time management
• Poor time management can lead to last-minute rushing, increasing feelings of pressure and making it difficult to perform at your best.
• By learning how to manage your time effectively, you can reduce the amount of pressure you feel.
• Negative self-talk can be a major barrier to handling pressure.
• If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, it can undermine your confidence and make it difficult to perform well under pressure.
Lack of support
• Lack of support from friends, family, or colleagues can make it difficult to handle pressure.
• A support system can help you feel more confident and better able to cope with high-pressure situations.
How Do I Know if I Put Too Much Pressure on Myself?
• You are constantly stressed and anxious: Feeling stressed and anxious can be a natural response to pressure. However, if these feelings persist and start to affect your daily life, it may indicate that you are putting too much pressure on yourself.
• You are never satisfied with your achievements: If you constantly feel like you have not done enough or could have done better, even when you have achieved something significant, it may be a sign that you are putting too much pressure on yourself.
• You experience physical symptoms: Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and digestive problems can be a sign that you are putting too much pressure on yourself.
• You feel burnt out: If you are constantly exhausted, lack energy, and find it difficult to concentrate, it may indicate that you are experiencing burnout due to excessive pressure.
• You have unrealistic expectations: Setting too high and unattainable goals can lead to feelings of failure, which can add to the pressure you put on yourself.
• You have a negative inner dialogue: Constantly criticizing yourself, being self-judgmental, and having negative self-talk can be signs that you are putting too much pressure on yourself.
If you identify with any of these signs, it may be a good idea to re-evaluate the level of pressure you are putting on yourself and seek ways to alleviate it.
How Can I Stop Mental Pressure?
Identify the source of your mental pressure. This could be work-related, relationship-related, financial, or health-related.
Once you’ve identified the source, develop a plan of action to address it. This could mean talking to a therapist, seeking financial advice, or taking steps to improve your physical health.
• Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. These can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
• Take breaks and engage in activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies or spending time with friends and family. This can help you recharge and refocus your energy.
• Get enough sleep. Sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health, and getting enough rest can help you manage stress better.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve overall health.
• Practice time management. Prioritize your tasks and create a schedule that allows you to manage your time effectively.
• Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, smoking, or overeating. These may provide temporary relief but can ultimately worsen mental pressure.
• Reach out for support. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist when you feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, simply having someone to listen can make a big difference.
• Be kind to yourself. Remember that managing mental pressure takes time and effort, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Practice self-compassion and focus on progress, not perfection.
How to Relax Your Mind?
Relaxing your mind is essential for overall well-being and can improve your physical health, productivity, and ability to focus. Here are some tips to help you relax your mind:
• Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment and observing your thoughts without judgment. This can help reduce stress and increase relaxation.
• Meditate: Meditation is a practice that involves focusing your attention on a specific object, thought, or activity. It can reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
• Deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and reduce stress. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.
• Exercise: Physical exercise can help reduce stress and improve mood. It also helps release endorphins, which can improve your overall sense of well-being.
• Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to stress and anxiety. Make sure you get enough sleep to help your mind and body relax.
• Spend time in nature: Being in nature can help reduce stress and improve mood. Take a walk, hike, or simply sit outside to enjoy the natural surroundings.
• Practice yoga: Yoga is a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. It can help reduce stress, improve flexibility and strength, and promote relaxation.
• Listen to music: Listening to calming music can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
• Take a break: Taking a break from work or daily activities can help reduce stress and clear your mind. Do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or taking a bath.
• Declutter: Clutter can create stress and make it difficult to relax. Clearing out unnecessary items can help create a more peaceful environment.
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