The smallest feline is a masterpiece.

~ Leonardo da Vinci ~

Is Pressure Upsetting You?

October 13th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 15 secs


How much pressure does it take to upset you? For some people, like my brother who lives in Papua New Guinea, it takes rather a lot.

Running a business with daily power blackouts, corruption, communication failures, violence, and plenty more besides would ordinarily be regarded as exceedingly stressful. Yet, he shrugs his shoulders and laughs it all off. He doesn’t have time for pressure. “Too busy,” he says.

Then there’s the flipside. Someone doesn’t get served in a store quickly enough and immediately they switch from calm to intensely pressured. By the time they do get attention, they flip their lid, blasting the salesperson with a tirade of fury.

So what’s happening? How is it that one person has such a long fuse while another is as volatile as nitroglycerin? The answer lies somewhere in how we think.

For starters, what we perceive to be pressure is chiefly governed by us. Even commonly regarded pressure experiences, like exams and snap tests, can be seen as challenges. Sometimes, you might even strike someone declaring them fun! So, there’s something in the way we frame experiences that shapes whether they go down the happy or the sad slots.

Our power to shape our encounters with thinking is the reason why psychologists frequently use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – or CBT (developed back in the mid ‘60s by Albert Ellis, who originally called it Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) to cope with pressure and understand it’s underlying causes.  By recognizing the phases we mechanically follow to reach conclusions and behave in certain ways, we can choose better methods for handling pressure.

The good thing about CBT is, which isn’t always easy, is that, often, it works. Sometimes, it might even be as simple as changing the way we see a triggering pressure. For instance, the fellow racing past us on the road may be the catalyst for us feeling a flash of anger. Yet, what if we knew the same man was desperately trying to get his pregnant wife to hospital because she was in labor?

Meaning can have a profound impact on the way we behave. So what we perceive as pressure can immediately switch to something much more benign. But only if we allow ourselves to think in different ways.

If you are somebody who can handle what other people consider pressure, well done. It’ wonderful to possess such reserves, especially when others start to crumble.

But if you find yourself easily going under due to pressure, perhaps you should consider the benefits of CBT as a way to boost your coping levels. Look for some books on the subject and explore how you can rise above the pressures besetting you.

While there are definitely times when not coping certainly seems reasonable, becoming more resilient can be more practical than quenching all the potential pressure triggers you keep facing.

Rather than wish life’s difficulties away. Or, hide behind a rock, hoping today’s pressures will go away by themselves. CBT and approaches like it offer better tools to handle hardship. To my mind, anything that builds your resilience has got to be worth your attention. So why not check for yourself, then decide from there?


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