11 Jun
Posted in: Talks
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Is It Pressure or Is It Stress?

I listened to a delightful talk yesterday by Sally Armstrong, called Mindful Happiness. She refers to lots of studies, including recent scientific research that shows changes in blood chemistry after extended periods of meditation, but what comes to mind most clearly this morning, as I think about what I want to post, is an article she quotes by Phillip Moffitt, in which he distinguishes between pressure and stress. Here’s what he says:

Pressure is a natural response to the ‘weight’ or ‘heaviness’ of the demands in your life, which you experience in your body, particularly your nervous system… Pressure is like an internal messenger that is telling you, ‘Pay attention.’ You experience this message as a demand; it is this demand that constitutes the felt sense of pressure in your body and mind.

“Stress is a very different phenomenon. It is your mind’s fearful, anxious, and immediate reaction to the demands that you face. You may be reacting to demands that you are facing at this moment or ones that you anticipate will happen in the future. You may even be reacting to pressure you felt in the past that was so traumatizing that the memory of it triggers feelings of stress in the present. You may also be inflating how truly fearful the situation is or completely misperceiving what’s going on.”


So, for example, pressure is what you feel when you’ve got a lot of stuff to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Stress is your response to that feeling of pressure. It’s the: I can’t do this! It’s not fair! Why does all this stuff always get dumped on me all the time!!!!!


Phillip goes on to say:

“The first step in overcoming this reflexive reaction is to ask yourself: ‘Is this really stressful or am I simply feeling a lot of pressure?’

“You find the answer by assessing the particulars of the situation, clarifying what action is called for (while being realistic about what you are capable of doing), and accepting that there are times in life when you will feel pressure and the outcome is uncertain…. If it truly is a stressful situation and you are in danger or unable to function, then you need to take whatever steps are necessary to assure your safety.

“The second step is to be mindful of whether you are feeling stressed simply because you are under pressure. If so, you can remedy this in several ways:

“Begin with naming it as pressure and clarifying what the demand is. Then define the tasks involved and make a list of what is required of you to complete what needs to be done.

“Acknowledge the challenge that the pressure presents and work out a system of balancing it. Allowing yourself time to rest, eating healthy food, meditation, being in nature, engaging in physical activity, receiving body work, and getting involved in activities that give you joy can all help bring relief from stress.

“Find a support system (either a person or a group, professional or friends) to help you deal with the pressure.”


There’s more. Click here to read the entire article, titled Preventing Pressure from Becoming Stress.


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