How To Deal With Pressure At Work

When talking about pressure at work, right off there’s something to understand — and it’s very important. Here it is: the pressure you’re feeling isn’t coming from the job… the pressure you’re feeling is coming from you.

What are you talking about?? Of course the pressure is coming from the job! They’re telling me to do this, that, and the other, and they’re telling me to have it done yesterday! Or something like that.

Listen. I am not denying that our work environments express expectations and deadlines to us — sometimes very tight deadlines. But any job related pressure or stress that we ultimately feel comes through us: these reactions are internal processes, not external.

Pressure at work is caused by our personal beliefs; specifically, the beliefs that we must perform at a certain level within our job to remain safe within our job and that performing at this level is not something we can comfortably do. If these beliefs, or very similar beliefs, are not in place then there will not be an experience of pressure.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what anyone within our work setting says to us — whether it’s our boss or a coworker. It’s what we say to ourselves. If this insight is not appreciated and accepted then we will not be able to effectively manage the experience of pressure over the long term.

We will continue doing what most people in similar situations do: looking “out” to deal with something that’s “in”.

If only they would stop applying pressure, I’d be okay. Try this instead. If only I would stop applying pressure, I’d be okay.

Listen closely to the internal story you’re hearing — and accepting as truth — about work expectations. What is the story saying? What is it telling you that you must do in order to be safe? When does the story start? When you arrive at work in the morning? When your boss gives you an assignment?

Is the story really true? Is it?

Can you really know that all of the bad things the story tells you will happen if you don’t perform your job in a certain way really will happen? And if they do happen, can you certainly know they will be as awful as you believe?

It is these stories, and only these stories, that are causing you to feel pressure at work. It is not what your boss says to you that causes pressure — it is the story about what your boss says to you that causes pressure.

If you want to reduce the impact of pressure at work then turn your attention to these stories. There are two quite effective means for lessening the impact of our mental stories: observing them but otherwise completely allowing them to be (see This Resource for more about this method).

Another effective means is considering the truth of these stories through inquiry. I recommend Byron Katie’s The Work for this.