When it comes right down to it, there is a big difference in pressure vs stress. Pressure can be a positive feeling, a challenge to be overcome, while stress is almost always entirely negative.

Still, the two feelings are linked in most people, and a lot of times pressure causes stress. We’re going to look at the similarities between the two, and also explain the differences in pressure vs. stress.

What is Stress?

Nearly everyone knows what stress feels like. It’s a nauseating ball in the pit of your stomach, or a sweaty feeling of dread at completing an assignment.

Stress is a universal feeling, but what most people don’t know is that a lot of stress comes from pressure. While pressure and stress aren’t the same thing, they’re very closely related. Simply put, stress is the sensation of being overwhelmed by pressure.

How is Stress Different from Pressure?

Stress is different from pressure in a lot of ways. For one, stress can cause people to shut down entirely, while pressure — if it’s managed properly — can actually be a motivating force for good. We know that stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed by pressure, but what is pressure? And how are the two different?

Pressure is an insistent feeling of an impending goal, while stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the task of completing that goal. The differences might be subtle, but they’re important. When you learn that you’ll be in charge of delivering a big project at work, that generally causes feelings of pressure. When you start to fret over whether or not you can complete it on time, that’s all stress.

Can Pressure Really be a Positive Force?

Properly managed, pressure can be a positive force. Of course the key is that it is properly managed. If it’s not, pressure leads to stress nearly all of the time. However if you know how to cope, pressure can be a very good thing. It can motivate you to do your best work, to accomplish a lofty goal, or to deliver a difficult project with a smile.

Learning how to work under pressure increases your people management skills, and it makes you a valuable employee.

It’s natural to feel overcome by stress, but it isn’t necessary. You can use pressure management techniques to stop the stress from affecting you. Activities like meditation and yoga are great stress relievers, but you can do something as simple as counting backwards from 100 to break free of stress. Remember, when it comes to pressure vs stress, with a little practice you can choose which one you experience.