Join Becki Saltzman for an in-depth discussion in this video Differentiating between high pressure and high stress, part of Decision-Making in High-Stress Situations.
- A good friend of mine called me a couple of years ago. We'll call her Lily, in case she's watching. She was feeling a lot of stress for many reasons, including that she was between jobs. She's a freelancer. And in the course of one day, she was faced with two important decisions. She had to decide whether to take a gig overseas for a very reduced rate, and she had to decide on an assisted care place for her mom. She called me in a panic to say she was under a lot of pressure, and she didn't know what to do. So I asked her, "Is it that you're under a lot of stress, "'cause it sounds like it, and I get it, "or is it that you're under a lot of pressure, "like you have to make these decisions today?" I asked her this because when you take the time to stop and separate high stress from high pressure, you'll see that they're different. High stress seems like it comes from external causes, but it actually comes from your internal reaction. High pressure is an applied force. In this context, it's the force that makes you feel like you have to take immediate action. Does thinking about physics help? Here, stress can be defined as the positive or negative force that's experienced by the material. Pressure is the amount of force applied. Sometimes you'll be faced with a decision that's high stress because it is high pressure. Other times, high pressure decisions, they're not that stressful, but you're already stressed out about something else, and you bring that stress to the decision. Sometimes it'll be a decision that brings a lot of stress, but not a lot of pressure. Now, that probably seems rare, because stress can make every decision seem like a high pressure decision, even when it's not. I asked Lily, "What's the worst thing that could happen "if you waited one month to make either of these decisions? "What about one week? "What about one day?" My friend was able to make two calls and buy herself two weeks to make these decisions. Tease apart your stress and the pressure you feel to make a decision, and you can often give yourself more space, less stress, to make better ones.