Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Too Much Pressure? 9 Ways to Lighten Your Load

Ligthen Pressure

I’ve been wondering how to dissolve the sense of pressure that seems so ever-present in modern life.  Are you concerned about that too?

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.

2.  Simplify

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.

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


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  1. As I am starting my retirement, I am immediately feeling less stress, and I am lightening my load. I am taking things slowly, considering my priorities at the moment and focusing on single tasks. Not always easy after coming out of a hectic job, but I am feeling so happy about it all.

    • I’m so happy for you, Donna! As you point out, it’s easy to carry the same stress from our work life into retirement. You’re so smart to go about this so consciously. It takes time to change our habits and learn to take things a bit more slowly. It’s inspiring to see how you are moving with all this so splendidly.

  2. Great thoughts Sandra. This might be close to my favourite post. Taking a pause (and for me a deep breath) acknowledging the good, celebrating the small daily steps all speak volumes to the choices I make in my life.

    Great reminders for us all to take the pressure off. It’s pretty much self inflicted as you point out.

    • Hi Elle,

      Thank you, Elle! Of course it makes my heart sing for you to say it’s one of your favorites. Pauses are just the best, aren’t they! I love your focus on the positive too.

  3. Hi Sandra,

    I am honored to find a little quote from me here! That’s so smart of you to notice the cultural connection because I think in the USA, Australia and the UK we do tend to think pressure and rushing is a good thing and feel like losers if we have nothing to do!

    We can make time so maybe lingering over three hour lunches is the way forward 🙂

    And as for number 3 most pressure comes from ourselves, our inner psyche telling us we’re not enough. We really have to ease off on that but it’s a challenge.

    I am really focusing on number 7 – creating small moments of pause in hectic days. For example by taking time to breathe instead of stress out about being late when sitting in traffic and taking three deep breaths every time the phone rings and before I answer. That’s such a small amount of space created but it adds up to a feeling of release!

    • Dear Annabel,

      I couldn’t resist including your description of savoring food during your recent trip to Italy! And, it’s so true about the cultural thing! I always thought that Australians were easy going. Like “no worries, mate.” Guess I missed something there.

      Yes, it is hard to change these deeply-seated patterns of thinking and feeling. I know that in my own life, but I feel we’re moving in a positive direction and it will get easier and easier with time.

      I’m all for celebrating the power of pauses, too! Thanks for this mini-lesson in all its goodness.

  4. Hi Sandra,

    How well articulated! We all are so familiar with this term ‘pressure’ and never pay any attention to it till it starts shouting loudly to us!

    I have been thinking how such terms like pressure and stress have crept into our lives and enslaved us…we only are responsible for this. As a child I don’t remember anybody ever mention these words. Not that there were no pressures…life was much more demanding but was at the same time, it was relaxing too. There was no multi-tasking, no twitter and Facebook to catch up!

    Thanks for reminding everybody to pause! Thanks for sharing, it relieves a lot of pressure and once in a while, it is good to hide behind those covers and postpone all work!

    • Hi Balroop,

      It’s interesting to hear you speak about a time when life was demanding but also relaxing. Now, it’s like we’re on 24 hours a day with all the multi-tasking and social media. You’re right, we each have to find our own way through this and have the verve to say no to too much pressure.

      I agree entirely that an hour, afternoon, or even a day under the covers is sometimes the perfect medicine! Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Hi Sandra,

    I couldn’t let such a magnificent post go by without commenting. You have put together a thoughtful offering of solutions, to an issue so many of us relate to.

    As an advocate of a less busy life, I am grateful for the opportunity to practice many of these suggestions daily in my home. However I hadn’t given thought to the value of a “slow meal” and how this simple act may have the possibility of filtering through into other daily actions that I hadn’t yet considered.

    Lots to reflect on here, thank you!

    • Hi Liz,

      I’ve been thinking a lot about the name of your blog – A Less Busy Life – and how relevant it is for these times. I’m so glad you shared your thoughts with us! I hope you give a slow meal a try and see what you think. Yes, it would be interesting to see if the enjoyment of a slow meal would filter to other areas of life. That would be nice.

  6. Jean Sampson

    Hey, Sandra, this is a wonderful post and a good reminder to slow down and see what is essential and what is not. If I get stressed, that is one of the questions I ask myself, “How important is this, really?” And try to sort things out in that manner. It is really important that I get a pretty good chunk of exercise (outside if possible) because that somehow takes pressure off for awhile even if it is some sort of challenge I have set up for myself. I think I am pretty good at dealing with stress because I am aware of when I am getting too stressed (I tend to forget things, forget to be places, etc, sort of like my being saying, “Well I am going to take some pressure off because you will just forget to do some of these things you are supposed to do.” And that is a huge sign that there is too much going on and it is affecting my life.
    Still have the intention of downsizing because it just makes so much sense to me—–I am still having trouble with books—-I manage to set them in piles on the floor to take to the used book store and I just cannot manage to see them go. Clothes I have no problem with 🙂 Oh, well, something to continue to work on. 🙂 Good luck with your distressing and I will try to do the same 🙂

    • I love that question, Jean. Really, it cuts to the essence of what is important in life. Sometimes, we just need a really simple solution like this.

      Know the early warning signs of stress is so important. When we know, we’re so much more able to cut through. Thanks for sharing your process.

      Good luck with the downsizing. Even though I’ve given up so many books, I understand your dilemma. I still have books to let go of too. I’ve decided to buy one replacement a month on the Kindle of the ones I really must keep and work on parting with the others. Good luck with your aspiration. You are making progress even if you haven’t made it to the used bookstore yet!

  7. Insightful post, Sandra!

    Hmmm… Maybe it’s because of my age, but I used to induce pressure on myself when I realize that my friends and colleagues are doing so-called great things and I’m just here working in front of the computer. Haha!

    It’s actually a little embarrassing. But I’ve since stopped caring about they were doing and begun focusing on my own thing. I was too busy feeling and for myself and trying my hardest to “keep up” when I could just be me and still be happy. It’s the reason why I rarely visit Facebook. Since then, I taught myself to be happy for others’ successes instead of seeing their successes as my failures.

    • Beautiful, Glori! It’s huge to be able to rejoice for others’ successes. That must bring you much more happiness than feeling like you’ve failed in comparison.

      I think you have a good formula here and I’m so happy you shared your experience with us.

  8. Hello; thanks for reminding us of what is really important and giving us some techniques to achieve it. You mentioned celebrating your victories. I find you are right about making a list. Its just like when someone on a new diet doesn’t realize how much they had eaten until they started writing it down. And taking breaks is very important. Just this weekend i wrote one of my better blog posts after taking a few hours off to listen to an audio version of a graphic novel. And I take time out every day to exercise. I am not a workout warrior, but i do listen to uplifting or inspiring audio books while I’m doing it. Keep up the great work, max

    • Hi Max,

      These are such great examples. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. Writing things down really does change our experience of them, doesn’t it!

      I’m so happy to hear how your productivity flourishes from taking a break. It seems like you have a great flow going. I’m so happy for you. And thanks for your appreciative words. Be well!

  9. Hi Sandra
    I agree with you about being bold and consistent in our efforts.that alone is a surefire way to overcome unnecessary stress.
    The tendency to throw in the towel at the first sight of resistence is a very natural urge,but that is fickleness.Not strength.Not courage.Courage is the delibrate effort to continue action ,regardless of the pain involved in the short term.
    When we express courgae in action,in words,in thought,in feeling,in reaching out,and in being original,it only increases.

    • Dear Mona,

      Great thoughts on deliberate, continuous action! You’re so right, we need to keep going even with small steps and we’ll see positive change for ourselves and others. I like your description of how courage feeds and grows itself. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  10. Great post Sandra! A wonderful reminder that we all need to take a step back once in a while and evaluate what we’re doing that is causing pressure on ourselves. Personally, I do make a conscious effort to live with less pressure, but it does not always come easily.

    One of my biggest downfalls is wanting to do it all myself! I struggle with asking for help, but am getting better at it. It is a wonderful relief to just let go of this belief. Asking for the help I need allows me to spend more time doing the things that are most important to me and that I love.

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