Performance Under Stress Pressure

The difference between Pressure and Stress

It is important to understand the difference between pressure and stress.  When you are faced with a challenge you are confident you can meet, it is normal to experience positive feelings such as excitement and motivation.  This results in higher than normal levels of energy and an enthusiasm to work hard and succeed.  On the other hand however, when faced with a challenge you believe is beyond you, for whatever reason, you are in danger of experiencing stress.  Any level of pressure you perceive as excessive, may, if not reduced within a reasonable period of time, turn into chronic stress.

When stressed, your overall performance will reduce.  If you feel that you are not capable of meeting a challenge, you experience negative thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that drain your energy and lower your mood and desire to work.  A stressed person will want to withdraw energy from a pressurized situation and give up the battle.

Pressure can cause High Performance or Stress

It is important to understand that we all need to experience sufficient pressure occasionally to stretch us out of our comfort zones.  If we don’t stretch ourselves we will not grow.  However, as the pressure increases there will come a point where it is too much for us and instead of responding with improved performance we will start to show the signs of stress.  This is true of anybody and anything.  If you put too much pressure on a bridge it will start to show the signs of stress and eventually break.  This course will help to increase your awareness of the amount of pressure you are comfortable with.  It will also help you to be more aware of when the pressure is too much for you.  It is always the case that the more satisfaction you get from an activity the greater the pressure you can tolerate from it.

Working long hours

Working long hours does not automatically mean you will suffer from stress.  The main danger from working consistently long hours is that you could exhaust yourself.  It is essential to pace yourself and ensure you balance the work periods with appropriate recovery time.  In sports psychology this is referred to as ‘periodisation’ and is an essential skill for athletes who are training for major events like the Olympics.

Working long hours may be a sign that you are suffering from stress.  It could be that you have to work extra hours to cope with an excessive workload.  Or alternatively you may feel that you need to put in long hours to impress your boss because you lack confidence in your ability to do the job and are worried about your job security.   Putting in longer hours than are necessary or simply waiting until the boss has gone home has been referred to as ‘presenteeism’ and is common in organisations with particularly high levels of stress.

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