Everyone knows what it feels like to be stressed out, but that doesn't mean it's easy to nail down what it means. We say things like oh wow, this is stressful! Or, oh gosh, I feel stressed out. It could be a situation or event that is putting us under pressure (like when there is a lot to do or when you don't have much control in a situation). It might be that the emotions you experience as a result of pressure make you feel unable to cope (it's so overwhelming it feels as though you're walking through a thick fog).
Stress & Pressure
We don't have an official medical definition to explain what stress is exactly. A lot of professionals in the medical industry would argue about whether stress is causing problems or comes as a result of problems. This, of course, can make it rather difficult to determine where the problem started and if you can't identify the beginning, it is difficult to deal with it. Ultimately, you don't need a definition to understand your problem and find a solution.
Pressure is just a normal part of human life. On a good day, it can energize you, push you to act, and seek results. However, if the pressure continues it can create an overwhelming stress that can cause serious issues. It isn't a mental illness, you can't receive it as a psychiatric diagnosis, however, that doesn't mean it isn't closely related to your mental health.
Stress can result in mental health issues (or make existing issues worse). For example, if you struggle with stress and you can't cope or manage it, then you can develop anxiety and/or depression. Likewise, an existing mental health issue can contribute to stress. It can be difficult to cope with the symptoms and combined with the need to deal with medications, treatments, and appointments, it can cause that stress to grow.
It's a vicious cycle.
Pressure is ultimately a byproduct of stress and the two work together to overwhelm you.
Signs of Pressure
• Wound up, irritable, impatient, aggressive
• Anxious, afraid, nervous
• Racing thoughts
• Unable to enjoy activities that normally fill you with joy
• A general disinterest in life
• An overwhelming sense of dread
• Loneliness or feeling neglected
Physical symptoms include:
• Shallow breathing or panic attacks
• Tension in muscles
• Sore eyes or blurred eyesight
• Sleep problems (or nightmares)
• Loss of libido
• Bowel problems
• Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
• Chest pains
• Feeling sick or dizzy
Additionally, you may notice changes in your behavior similar to the following:
• Difficulty making decisions
• A constant feeling of worry
• Avoiding difficult situations
• You snap at the people around you
• You pick your skin, bite your nails, or eat too little/too much
• Difficulty concentrating
• You feel restless
• You drink more alcohol than normal (or smoke more cigarettes)
• You use more substances than normal
• Crying a lot or feeling tearful
Coping With Pressure
• Identify your triggers for stress and either remove them altogether or learn how best to manage them. Look for issues that continue to crop up, one-off moments, or ongoing stress.
• Organize your time more effectively to manage your tasks and pressure more efficiently. Identify when you have the most energy and take care of the most difficult tasks in that block of time, keep a list to ensure you stay on track, break things down into smaller tasks, and ask if you need help.
• Try to address the cause of your pressure, whether it's mental health, financial, relationships, addiction, abuse, discrimination, general stress, or otherwise.
• If you can't change it, then you must accept it and move on.