The things to know about pressure are:
- What is causing it?
- How much can you take?
- How long can you take it?
- What can you do to ease it off?
- What can you do to end it?
Under pressure. Carrying around a burden for a short period is something most people are used to doing. Think of the pressure of an upcoming exam, your expectation of a first kiss, sitting beside the Driver Examiner as you do your driving test, watching your favourite team bat in the bottom of the ninth, down a run and down to your last at bat.
You might find the above examples bring back memories for you of tremendous pressure; or conversely you might see the examples I’ve provided as relatively minor sources of stress or none whatsoever. It really depends on the person and how you perceive each event. Of equal importance is how many other sources of stress you’re experiencing at a given moment.
So while going to the game to, ‘get away from it all’ for a couple of hours might be your friends idea of helping you cope with whatever stress you’re under, it could all backfire and be just the thing that sets you off. It may just put you over the top while those around you are hopeful for win but not incapacitated while the outcome is in jeopardy. Yes, you could be exiting the ballpark in the 8th inning and nowhere in sight in a close ball game, just unable to deal with one more potentially stressful event.
Looking for work, looking to get ahead at work; even just looking to keep the job you’ve got now, these too may be immense sources of frustration from which pressure to succeed is incredible. My experience assisting people with their employment aspirations continues to show that almost every job seeker has multiple sources of stress in their lives. If getting a job was the only thing they worried about and had to concentrate on things would be easier. By easier, I mean their concentration level and focus would be sharper, their ability to put into action the necessary steps to find the work better, and this would make the period of unemployment shorter.
However, finding work isn’t all that’s going on. There’s bills piling up, rent and child support to pay, reliable childcare to find, late buses to deal with, dirty clothes to clean and keep up-to-date. There are utility costs and interest on unpaid credit cards to pay down, expectations of family and friends to, “just get a job why don’t you!” that constantly irritate, resumes to write, ink for the printer to buy, food needed for the table, a throbbing toothache and growing anxiety that you’ll always be a burden. On the outside of course, you’re doing your best to fit in, look normal, smile to world and not let on that you’re floundering.
Really though, you’ve been under these pressures for so long, this constant state of chaos has become your new normal. Maybe that’s why self-medicating, forgetting everything for a couple of hours, seemed like something you could handle. Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned. Nope, when you’re honest with yourself you know you’ve got yet another problem, and you know it because you’re on the hunt for your next fix far too often; you’ve become dependent and that’s so typical of just how you see yourself.
No column is going to give you the fix for all the above, nor would I try. If you’re fortunate enough to have none of the above as your personal issue, you might be thinking I’m laying things on rather thick; that surely only a very rare few deal with what I’ve laid out altogether. I know you’re mistaken in that belief. In fact, I welcome the comments of any and all readers who might want to back up what I’ve said with their own experiences. It’s so hard to cope and focus on just getting and then holding down a job when a job is only one of maybe 30 things that are going on and adding to one’s pressure.
I suppose a good analogy is a juggler. If you start with only two balls, you might be able to go without dropping one or both fairly easily. Okay, add another. Now keep that going without dropping one – not for a few seconds but rather for 20 minutes. Could you? Okay add some more; not one more you understand – 4 or 9. At what point did it become overwhelming? Are you surprised with how little you could actually handle when a professional makes juggling look not only easy but actually fun?
I tell you this…take a single parent of two, one of which has a learning disability, add in no job, dependency on social assistance and food banks, no internet, mounting bills, seeing a Credit Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, a Family Doctor, frequent meetings with a School Vice-Principal to discuss behaviour problems at school, and volunteering at her child’s school 4 days a week, and you’ve likely got someone who out of necessity, has become an expert on how to deal with stress. To us on the outside, it looks like a life in chaos. The worst things we could say is, “I think it’s time you thought about getting a job. Don’t you want your kids to be proud of you?”