It’s easy enough to give the dictionary definition of pressure. We know that it is a feeling of intense urgency caused by an impending task. But what does that really mean? And how does pressure affect the way that we work?

Most importantly, how can we cope with pressure in order to keep from getting stressed? The dictionary won’t tell you any of that, but they’re all keys to understanding pressure.

What is Pressure?

First and foremost, pressure is a psychological feeling. Just like anger and sadness, we feel pressure sometimes when it’s appropriate and other times when it doesn’t seem to be. Healthy amounts of pressure can help us to work more efficiently and effectively, motivating us to do our very best.

Unhealthy amounts of pressure, or feelings of pressure at times when it’s not really there, can cause us to lock up nervously, sitting around and procrastinating until the very last minute. The chances are good that you’ve felt both types of pressure before.

What Does Pressure Do?

Pressure does different things to different people, it’s a complicated feeling. For some people pressure raises their heart rate, causes sweating and nervousness, and leads to stress. Stress intensifies the feelings of pressure and can cause a feedback loop that leaves us feeling utterly worthless and unable to complete the task at hand.

Alternatively, pressure can be seen as a challenge. It can motivate us to do our very best work. Pressure can be seen as a challenge to rise above, or as an opportunity to deliver on a difficult assignment. Believe it or not, it’s largely up to you which kind of pressure you feel.

How Can I Cope With It?

The key to feeling pressure as a positive all lays in your coping skills. If you know how to handle pressure, that can go a long way toward understanding pressure and rising above it. For some people, handling pressure is as simple as doing a few deep breathing exercises.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people with situational anxiety need therapy and occasionally medication to handle pressure and stress. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

That means that it’s possible to build coping skills to handle pressure. On this site, there is a list of different things you can try, but the most important thing is to distract yourself when you’re feeling stressed. Stress is negative pressure that we place on ourselves when things seem hopeless.

Strive to feel pressure as a positive factor, as a challenge, and you’ll not only understand pressure but you’ll be able to rise above it.