Pressure weighs on my mind for two reasons. Firstly, I’m visited by a recurring dream, which is filled with chaos and overwhelm. The settings shift but the tone remains one of unrelenting pressure. Curious, isn’t it?
Secondly, I’ve felt increasing pressure as I’ve added more responsibilities into my work world. Some days, I just want to hide under the covers and never go back to the internet ever again. I love writing, sharing, and serving. But, as my friend Anne-Marie reminded me, I’m just one person and can only do so much.
The Year of Less Pressure
Some may be enamored with the pressured life, but I know it’s not for me. A constant feeling of overload drains my joy and flares the stress cycle as well.
How about you? Do you enjoy a pressured life?
After talking about this, my husband and I have now declared this the “Year of Less Pressure.” Yes, we still have jobs and responsibilities. But, can we inject them with more spaciousness and ease?
9 Ways to Lessen Pressure
If you’re serious about reducing the extra mental and emotional weight in your life, consider these 9 possibilities that I’m exploring too. Some are simple and some are radical just to perk it up a bit.
1. Pressure: A Cultural Affair
I’ve visited enough foreign cultures to know that pressure is a unique, man-made version of modern life that doesn’t exist in every country on this earth.
Many cultures still appreciate a slow meal, singing and swaying while you wait for the bus, and the afternoon nap. Consider the way the folks of Pulgia, Italy slow down for food, friends and family according to Annabel Candy:
For the Pugliese eating isn’t just about refueling, it’s a cultural ritual that’s been handed down through the generations, a social union that creates precious time to spend with family and friends and a central part of everyone’s day. Eating in Puglia is definitely not something you rush. No one seems to eat on the way to work, while standing around the water cooler or while watching TV.
While it can be difficult to go against the grain, you don’t have to follow the cultural expectation of busyness. Travel to another part of the world and taste how time ticks in a different way. Or, start living your own slow culture wherever you are.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel more pressure when I have too much stuff.
Stuff robs away your time because it requires work. First, you have to get the money to buy the stuff. Then there's all the cleaning and maintenance.
Stuff will also happily steal your peace of mind when you begin to worry about loss or become anxious about needing the next best thing.
Here are three of my favorite simplicity blogs, where you can learn how to create new habits and simplify your life.
- Becoming Minimalist with Joshua Becker
- Be More with Less with Courtney Carver
- Zen Habits with Leo Babauta
It’s not just about stuff though. You can also have too many thoughts eating away at you. And, you may have too many assignments that need to be trimmed unless you are super human and really enjoy a pressure-cooker life.
Take stock. Where’s the excess and what’s unnecessary in your life?
3. Ease Off Pressuring Yourself
A great deal of our pressure is self-created in our own mind. It often stems from false personal beliefs rooted in our childhood.
Rising pressure can be the result of low esteem, trying to meet other people’s expectations, or the drive to achieve a goal at any cost. Being driven by these unconscious forces usually feels uncomfortable and false, but sometimes we just don’t know how to be our real self.
Then, if you “fall short,” there’s the tendency to berate yourself. It’s not a friendly cycle, is it?
Take a look at any deeply held beliefs that might be causing you to invite added pressure into your life. Counter them one by one with a new idea about yourself or about life.
4. Whatever It Is, Start Early
Unless you can retire to a coconut strewn beach, there will always be deadlines to meet. The tax collector will make sure of that. If you really don’t want pressure, the trick is to start early and give yourself twice as much time to prepare for any activity, appointment, or deadline.
Here’s another truth: Most of the time you can shift a deadline or cut your goal to a more reasonable size. So you don’t have to be a perfectionist about it unless you really want to wear yourself down to the bone.
5. Carefully Select Your Priorities
You never know when this life will end. It could be today or it might be tomorrow. Don’t fool yourself into thinking life will continue forever.
I’ve been following Elana Miller’s story on the Zen Psychiatry blog because she’s a genuine person, fabulous writer and an advocate of mindfulness too. Her experience proves you never know what will come next no matter how young you are or how much you juice. Elana says,
“Then, on December 17th, 2013, while in my last year of psychiatry residency at UCLA, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. It was as much of a punch in the gut as you’d imagine it would be to get cancer when you’re a young, healthy woman with no family history, who eats well, exercises, meditates, juices, etc. etc. blah blah.”
So why spend your time feeling pressured when it might be your last day on earth?
Do you know what you really want to accomplish in this life? Spend some time thinking that through. Then choose just 1-3 of the important priorities and focus the majority of your time on them.
The most important thing is to make your goals fit the life you want, not to make your life fit unachievable or unimportant goals.
P. S. Your goals don’t have to be all about work, work, work. I know you have to make money to live, but this is where simplicity can really be the key to less pressure and more happiness.
6. Single Task
Research has shown time and again that our brain is not equipped to deal with multi-tasking unless we’re doing something entirely rote. You just waste your time, lower your productivity, and increase the pressure when you try to multi-task.
Learn to be present in the moment and focus on one thing at a time.
The secret though is not to over-focus on the task at hand. That will just bring more tension and unease. Learn to bring a balance of alert relaxation to your activity. You’ll feel so much more spacious and relaxed.
Being present in the moment will also relieve you of angst anchored in the past or worry connected to the future. That means less mental and emotional pressure for you.
7. Pause When You Feel Pressured
Feeling pressured is a sign that something’s not right. It seems like a natural reflex in the busy culture to work harder in an attempt to relieve any sense of pressure you feel. But, doing more will usually just make you less effective and more stressed.
Pause and replenish yourself instead. Some ways to invoke the relaxation response - the counterpoint to stress - include running, yoga, prayer, meditation, and abdominal breathing.
Sometimes, just a 5-minute break can make all the difference in the world. But, I’m willing to take an afternoon or even a whole day off if I’ve let the pressure go too far. I hope you'll develop this wondrous capacity too.
8. Enjoy What You Do, Enjoy What You Have
Everything depends upon how we perceive. When you bring a negative attitude into any situation it’s not going to feel great, which automatically adds displeasure and the pressure to escape. Dislike tends to multiply making everything seem all the worse.
You may not have the perfect job, relationship, or place to live. But there’s probably something good about it. Consider how you can bring enjoyment or gratitude into your current circumstances, whatever they might be.
9. Celebrate All That You Do
Some days I feel like I didn’t get “anything” done, but I actually did.
Make it part of your routine to celebrate what you’ve accomplished each day. No accomplishment is too small. Each one is a stepping stone toward achieving your goals. Be sure to include the time you spent relaxing and being good to yourself on the list.
By the way, please don't let these 9 ways bring you more pressure and fuss! Just pick one that resonates for you and then take one small step at a time.
Make An Inner Commitment to More Ease
I’ve learned some deep lessons since we began the “Year of Living with Less Pressure” just a few short weeks ago.
- I’ve seen clearly how pressure easily builds from the demands that I place on myself.
- I can't keep increasing commitments or I'll burst at the seams.
- I need to change how I structure my work because I’m only one person who can only do so much.
These are all things I can change! Of course, I haven't perfected living with less pressure by any means. But, heck, I have a whole year so I don't need to be in a rush.
I would love for you to join me for the "Year of Living with Less Pressure." It’s not a formal program. It’s just an inner commitment to more ease.
Would you like to live with less pressure? How will you begin?
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra