The Difference Between Pressure and Stress. Can You Handle Both?

stressed man

Most often, when we are feeling overwhelmed in life, by work, home, and other obligations we talk about the stress we feel.

The pressure is defined as using persuasion to make someone do something.

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that usually results from very demanding circumstances.

Stress is a word we read about constantly in the news and appears in health and advice columns with ways we can decrease or eliminate it. What they miss talking about is pressure.

Pressure and stress are terms often used interchangeably because of deadlines and, most of which relate to our jobs.

Pressure vs. Stress

The biggest difference between the two is how they are perceived.

As we’ve been told before, perception is everything and it’s true. Each person perceives life differently. Even at different stages of our lives. We perceive things differently when we’re older to when we were younger.

Much of it is based on experiences, the changes we go through and how we gain wisdom.

In the workplace, we are often challenged by employers, clients or projects themselves…something that is at stake if we drop the ball and don’t get our part done.

However, we often feel like that pressure is stress because in a pressure situation we put stress on ourselves.

Stress to get the job done, done right and on time or even early. We always strive to do our best and please someone. Basically, stress is our reaction to those pressures.

The pressure is not stress but, even in our personal lives, we feel anxiety, or stress, about our circumstances. If we don’t make enough money we have to decide what to pay for… food or the bills.

How will we pay the rent or mortgage? If we have children who will get them to soccer and dance?

handling pressure and stress in an working environmentIf we go out and get another job to try and make ends meet we add pressure to our relationships, our bodies, our time and our other obligations as we need to fulfill the needs and pressures of multiple employers and still maintain some level of status quo in our personal lives.

If we go to our daughter’s dance recital we will miss our son’s first big soccer game. And so it goes.

Our stress increases as we are concerned about how we will manage; how we will get through and will any other obligations come our way during this time?

We often place pressure on ourselves in addition to that of pressure from others. We put this pressure on ourselves for many reasons: to succeed, to make someone else happy, to impress someone who may or may not be our boss!

We place the pressure on ourselves with hopes that we can get that promotion and a raise and maybe even a bonus.

Think of the last time you went on a date. How much pressure did you put on yourself to wear the right clothes and make everything just perfect?

As you can conclude by now, the pressure is an external source that is placed upon us by anything or anyone, including ourselves.

Stress is our internal reaction to that and it’s those reactions that do the most damage. The stress we feel on that first date probably isn’t going to kill us but work could.

If we continue in high-pressure jobs the constantly elevated blood pressure, lack of sleep, muscle tightness, headaches, and other bodily responses will start to have long term and negative effects.

Unfortunately, this can lead to burnout and often times a person can become physically ill or develop actual psychological and emotional issues such as depression.


Health as Stressor

Another stressor can be our own health. People who have serious health issues tend to feel stress which can further impact their health and well-being.

Chronic pain, a cancer diagnosis, looking after a loved one with dementia or another serious health issue puts pressure on us to be there for that person but we also have our own lives…family, jobs…and the pressure is on to be all things to all people.

Those individuals tend to feel the ongoing effect as their sleep is impacted, they have to take time off work, which, in turn, impacts their employer and they start to feel stress hoping they will not lose the job that they rely on.

It’s a vicious cycle as one impacts the other.

When someone is diagnosed with a chronic illness chance are they have had to cut back at work already due to pain or some other impact their diagnosis is creating for them. They may also have issues focusing on the job at hand.

If they have rheumatoid arthritis their hands probably hurt which reduces their ability to type, use a mouse, or even write with a pen so they feel pressure to get jobs done that they don’t have to do that task any longer.

They feel stress when they have to explain themselves to their employer and when they finally get the diagnosis there is a relief but there is also more stress because of the realization that everything has changed forever and they will likely never be able to work again.

That will have an impact on their income and ability to pay bills and buy groceries.  Resolutions to that situation, such as disability, take time and it’s up to the government to determine if the person is eligible.


How to Manage?

Pressure, especially from employers, was meant to energize and motivate to get staff to achieve what is required of them. As already stated, pressure comes from various sources including our personal obligations and many of us struggle with that much pressure.

There are ways to manage the pressure we feel. Over time, that pressure turns to stress as we react negatively.

In general, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best first step.

girls having fun

Exercising regularly, not drinking excessively, eating healthy and getting lots of sleep will help but they aren’t quite enough to overcome the pressures you feel.

When we are impacted severely by stress we tend to eat less and we don’t sleep well.  Exercising can help overcome those as our bodies would be more tired.


1. Stay in control

Most often we feel more pressure in addition to that being applied at work when we lose control, especially if we feel we have lost control.

The sense that you are in control helps to give you a boost which, in turn, puts a positive spin on your situation. Learning your own weak spots will also help you stay on top.


2. Manage your response

Have you ever had so much to do you don’t know where to begin? You look at the to-do list and you feel so overwhelmed you don’t know what to do first.

Maybe you have two workdays left before you’re on vacation and you have some letters to write and some work to pass on to others with written instructions and you just don’t know how to tackle it all.

For example…When I worked in a doctor’s office I would have a stack of charts on my desk to do referrals for, I would get 50 prescription renewals or more every week and still have patients to see and phone calls to return. When I due to go on vacation in two days I often felt overwhelmed.

I decided I had to do one thing at a time. Typically, I would start with the referrals then I would sit and do as many renewals as I could just sitting at my desk and not getting up to fax them each time. Just work through one thing, and then work through the next thing.


3. Be organized

Often times we do part of one thing, set it aside, and then do part of something else. Sometimes we don’t have a choice because we need additional information to finish each.

Referrals are like that where lab results needed to accompany the request. When you set incomplete papers aside, something else will likely get set on top and you run the risk of losing it. Stay organized. Get a folder and insert partially completed projects inside and another folder for what you haven’t even started yet.


4. Boost your self-control

Our stress levels rise and our emotions start to run high when we have a lot on our plate so it’s best to learn skills to better manage our anger and how we cope in these situations.

Taking deep breaths, relax, sometimes walking away for five minutes or setting it all aside and grabbing something else that may be more fun or energizing for a short time can alter your emotions and reduce your anger and stress response. Anything to shift your mind from the pressures before you.


The human body is not designed to function in high-pressure situations for lengthy durations and, obviously, starts to react in the face of too much.

We have to take care of ourselves first because we need our bodies after we retire and our kids are a gown and have left the nest.

Maintain your cool. De-stress as frequently as you need to. Schedule messages, take walks, just break away. Give your brain rest and don’t let the pressure get to you.

In the long run, it’s not worth it.




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Passionate about everything that shines, settled down on UV(ultraviolet) lights. I'm motivated and with a mission to help people live a better life!

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