The Problem of High Pressure: Lowering Stress When Life Is Too Much


    In the process of perceiving your capacities and resources, you may, at times, overestimate them. This results in taking on too many demands, possibly to the point of “breaking” and feeling that you are overwhelmed, that you are at or beyond your capacity. You may also begin to feel inadequate, incompetent, lazy, or not talented enough. In reality, you have simply “bitten off more than you can chew” at the moment. Additionally, you can underestimate demands, thinking that a work project or homework assignment will be easy to complete and won’t take up much time. Unwittingly taking on a large amount of new pressure can quickly make you feel like you are “in over your head” and unable to be effective.
    Consider Marjorie, a full-time office manager and single mother of two boys, who was quick to say yes to any new project that came her way. She went “above and beyond” at work, took classes in the evenings, and regularly volunteered to be the driver for her kids and their friends to their various extracurricular activities throughout the week. She thrived under pressure and her hectic schedule, viewing stress as a necessary and beneficial part of her growth. Some weeks, however, it felt like too much for Marjorie. She’d get headaches, she’d eat poorly, and she wouldn’t get enough sleep. She could tell when an intense amount of pressure was really getting to her because she’d become easily irritated by her kids, with whom she was otherwise very compassionate and gentle. Using the Triple-A Way framework, Marjorie readily acknowledged her stress, well aware of when the intensity level increased. Marjorie also accepted her various stressors as not only part of her reality, but as a welcomed reality in her life. The third step, however—taking action with strengths—was not something to which Marjorie was particularly attuned. In examining the 24 character strengths, it became clear to her that she could develop more prudence to plan for better health habits during difficult weeks. She was already adept at expressing her prudence at work and with her kids’ schedules, but she hadn’t previously considered using this strength to plan meals, protect sleep time, and get proper exercise. Her strength of perspective assisted her in looking at the larger picture of her life and making decisions about taking on even more responsibilities at certain times. To deploy perspective whenever she encountered a potential new activity or commitment, she first asked herself: “In the big picture of the life of my family, will this new thing be more helpful or harmful for me and my sons?” Asking this question helped Marjorie take the reins of stress and either directly increase or decrease her pressure levels. It became her decision. NEW POTENTIAL PRESSURES: WILL THEY HELP OR HARM? Think of a life challenge that you are considering embarking on or a request someone has made of you. Make sure it’s something to which you can freely say yes or no—not, for example, an assignment your boss has given you. Instead, write down below something like a neighbor asking you to do a daily favor, a teacher proposing “extra credit” work, or a new volunteer opportunity that has just opened up in your community
    As you think about this challenge or project/request, consider the demands that will likely be placed upon you. How much pressure would this amount to? What is the time commitment? How might this impact your health, your relationships, your leisure time, your family, your work? Is taking on this new challenge/project/request something that will veer more in the direction of helping you or harming you? Explain your answer: Whether you chose “helping” or “harming” in the previous question, consider your character strengths. How might your character strength capacities support you if you accept the new pressure or reject it?
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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