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The pressures we put on ourselves


When you’re a kid, it’s easy to do your best. You don’t have many pressures or expectations put on you. But as we grow up, the world starts putting pressure on us, and we start putting pressure on ourselves – from our parents, society, and friends… It can be hard to meet these incredible standards that we set for ourselves, and when we don’t meet them (which can sometimes be inevitable), it can lead to a very low mood or depression. The worst part? We usually blame ourselves and think there’s something wrong with us instead of looking at the bigger picture: no one is immune to this feeling, and there are ways out of this problem.

Why do we put pressure on ourselves?

This is a question with no easy answer, but the most common reasons people put pressure on themselves are because they feel like they have to do well in a certain area of their life or they feel like they have to do well so that people around them will be proud of them. Pressures often come from within – “I need to do well to look after my family” or “I must achieve this to progress in my career” have been internal monologues I’ve listened to.

I’m not saying all pressure is bad, though. There are times when it’s good to stretch ourselves, and a healthy level of pressure signifies that we’re achieving that. However, when a high level of pressure is your default state of mind – it can lead to mental health issues, as well as physical health problems.

Why does pressure cause depression?

In the short term, the higher pressure we place on ourselves, the better we can perform. In reality, it doesn’t work that way – because there’s a limit to how much stress and pressure your brain can take before it starts reacting negatively. In our default state of mind (the state where you’re not thinking about anything in particular), your brain uses a system to self-regulate and keep everything going smoothly. This process is called homeostasis, where all of our different systems within our body meet each other halfway to ensure we’re getting an ideal state of mind and body.

A high level of stress or pressure means that this system doesn’t work properly. Our brain starts to react in negative ways – this is what leads to mental health issues, often depression.

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How can I help myself?

Of course, it’s not always easy to manage our stress and pressure, especially since factors outside of our control can affect us (like the state of the economy or if someone important to us passes away). But what we can do is understand how it works and look at possibilities of finding ways out of this problem.

The first step you can take is to talk about your pressures with people close to you or in a safe community. Whether it’s a friend, family member, trusted college, or therapist – talking through the problem will help you release those negative feelings. It’ll also help them better understand what you’re going through, which can lead to more opportunities for support.

An illustrated person placing sticky notes on the wall

Another way to deal with pressure is to take a step back and look at how it’s affecting our lives. Once we identify the triggers, we can avoid them and the feelings that come with them. For example, if meeting a certain deadline for a project is causing you pressure and depression – try approaching your client to discuss the potential for adjusting timelines, taking ownership of the issues and being proactive will normally result in a better outcome, over trying to “soldier on” and delivering poor results. Or see if you can delegate some of the tasks. These small steps will help you become more in control of your life and avoid triggers that lead to negative thoughts and emotions.

Focus on the things you want to achieve, not what you haven’t done yet. Positive thinking is a skill that needs to be worked on – it’s important to remember that we’re all going through these thoughts at least once in our lives.

You’re not alone!

If you’re finding it difficult to take these steps – ask for help from a professional. A therapist, coach or counsellor is there to support you with your emotions and help you find the best way forward. Remember – almost everyone has internalized pressure at some point in their life. It’s never too late to try and break the cycle.

Be aware of the internal voice

Having an awareness of our internal voice is key to keeping pressures at bay. The way you talk to yourself will impact your feelings and emotions. Try to say kind things – “I’m allowed to mess up!” and avoid saying harsh words – “What’s wrong with me?”. There are also other techniques like slowing your breathing, meditating, exercising, etc. These all have mental health benefits that will improve your mood.

The pressures we put on ourselves are real, but they’re not something to be afraid of. Just because you don’t meet the demands you’ve set for yourself doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world – or even a failure.


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Tips for living a less pressured life

It’s not always easy to keep pressuring at bay, but here are some tips for living a less pressured life:

An illustrated person sitting in a lotus position meditating
  • Take a step back and think about what you’re struggling with and why it makes you feel like that – if we figure out the triggers, we can avoid them and the feelings that come with them.
  • Talk to someone close to you when you’re feeling down, whether a friend, family, trusted colleague or therapist. It’ll help you release those negative feelings, and they’ll be better able to support you.
  • When we talk about our anxiety with people who care about us or who’ve been in this situation before, we’ve successfully “released” the pressure.
  • Find something you can do to feel like you’ve made progress, even if it’s small.
  • Positive thinking is a skill that needs to be worked on – it’s important to remember that we’re all going through these thoughts at some point in our lives. Don’t let that internal voice get the best of you!
  • Try doing meditation or exercise! These things have mental health benefits, and they’ll improve your mood.
  • Even though it’s not easy to keep pressuring at bay, try to see how little changes can make a huge difference in your life. Remember that you’re not alone; everyone experiences this at one point in their lives!

The pressures we put on ourselves are real, but they’re not something to be afraid of. We all have pressures that we put on ourselves, but learning how to manage them makes us stronger in the long run.

No two people are the same

Everyone deals with pressures in their life. Sometimes these pressures come from outside sources such as bosses, clients, or friends and family members. But more often than not, we put pressure on ourselves to meet the expectations of others and live up to our own standards. This dangerous game can lead to depression if you don’t find ways to get out of it and take care of yourself. No one is immune from this problem, so it’s important for us all to remember that we’re not alone when dealing with this challenge head-on.

But we must remember no two people are the same. We all cope with different situations and different levels of pressure in our own and unique ways. Listen to your body, if you’re feeling low or perhaps you have aches and pains that you didn’t before, consider the levels of pressure you’re under.

If you need to talk about your pressures, our team of volunteers are available to speak with you in confidence.

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