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  • Mindy McCarthy

Perceived Pressure

These past few weeks for me have seemed to be a whirlwind as my husband and I have been moving (and we all know how fun that is). While helping with the move, I was tasked with ordering and going to pick up lunch for everyone. This seemed easy enough, right?

While driving from the new house to pick up the food, I had trouble finding the restaurant. My GPS took me to the right shopping center, but the restaurant I was looking for seemed to be tucked in a back corner of the area making it difficult to find. When I tried to adjust my GPS on my phone, my phone suddenly stopped picking up a signal and wasn’t able to point me in any kind of direction. I tried calling my husband for some help, but he did not answer. I was finally able to plug in the address into my car GPS which took me out of the shopping center, told me to pull a U-turn, and turn right back into the same shopping center.

As you can imagine, my frustration continued to build. The restaurant seemed to be right under my nose, and I could not find it. I could feel the tension in my body increase exponentially as I felt that this task that I was assigned was not going to be accomplished or at least accomplished without help from anyone else.

I began thinking about this scenario and why I was getting so frustrated. And yes, this reflection did occur after I finally found the restaurant and saved lunch! Anyways, my frustration seemed to be coming from this made up notion that I had a time sensitive errand to run. I was putting a clock on myself even though no one had asked for the food to be back at a certain time. I was getting frustrated that I was unable to accomplish this goal in the amount of time that I thought was reasonable even though no one had told me there should be a time limit on this task.

I think many of us can relate to this scenario where we find ourselves getting frustrated over a pressure that we put on ourselves or one that we have perceived has been placed on us.

A great example of this is when people set a goal of losing weight, especially if it may take a long period of time. People can place a time limit on themselves to reach their goal which could lead to a perceived pressure on themselves. This cycle leads to feeling more stressed to reach your goal by the placed deadline which could in turn inhibit your weight loss results.

Another example is when high school basketball players take the first shot that they can throw up on offense as if they are fighting against some kind of shot clock. Players can put the pressure on themselves to make a play quickly in order to stay in the game or to show off their own talents in front of college coaches.

Evaluating where the pressure comes from that you are feeling is important to understand how it is affecting your performance. If you begin to realize that you are putting pressure on yourself, take a step back and think about why you are doing so. Where did the pressure come from? How is the pressure serving you? Is this something that can be changed or controlled?

If you do have a certain timeline that you actually have to meet, what are some other tiered goals that you can set in case your “plan A” is not accomplished? For example, if you are running a race and want to finish in a certain time, what is your second tiered goal for a time if that first goal is not reached?

When you begin to feel pressure on yourself, I also recommend asking yourself if this kind of pressure is serving you. Is this pressure making you want to work harder, or is it making you feel more stressed when trying to achieve your goal?

When the pressure begins to build up, think about the source of where this pressure came from. Is it pressure that was put on you from someone else or a certain situation, or was this a perceived pressure that you placed on yourself?

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