I was connecting with a friend the other day, and that was the word that came to mind as she was describing what was going on in her world. The pace and pressure feel relentless for a lot of us right now.
I’ve struggled with this myself over the last few months - it seems like there’s a never-ending barrage of task list items, requests for my time, chores and errands, problems to solve, and challenges to navigate. A lot of the strategies I’ve used in the past seem like they’re just not cutting it anymore, and more than once I’ve found myself feeling depleted and dragged down by what’s swirling around me.
In my coaching conversations and even in group trainings I’ve conducted recently, two words keep coming up when the talk turns to the relentlessness of this frenzied feeling many are experiencing: pace and pressure. Oddly enough, I am finding those two words also hold the keys to managing much of the whirlwind.
Let's talk about pace for a minute. Many of us have adopted, seemingly unconsciously, a pedal-to-the-metal mentality. While this may be the very thing that has helped us achieve great success in the first place, it is also something that can cause us exceptional challenges if we continue to operate this way unwittingly. We're not hurrying to a destination, we're simply hurrying to the next task. This is a surefire recipe for burnout.
At the same time, pressure keeps mounting. Pressure to be a good employee at work, a good partner for your partner, a good family member for your family, a good friend for your friends, a good citizen for your community, and on, and on, and on… Whether it’s self-induced or coming from an external source, it’s easy for pressure to build to excruciating and unsustainable levels. Without intentional examination, this pressure becomes a way of life rather than something we can influence.
Not all pressure can be alleviated, but there is often an opportunity to find a greater sense of ease than we might otherwise believe is possible. Similarly, when we lack intention in managing our pace, we tend to forget we can change that pace to something more sustainable. (And dare I say, even enjoyable!)
If pace and pressure have gotten you into a hole, try these two strategies to help dig you out:
Reduce the pressure
Start with an inventory of all the areas in your life that are creating pressure. Then find a single point of influence where you can ease some of that pressure. If it’s feeling like you need to have a perfectly clean house, try going an extra day or two longer between dusting. If you’ve got Betty Crocker/Martha Stewart syndrome minus the enjoyment of behaving that way, consider some healthy takeout options or easy-to-cook recipes instead of more elaborate meals that require extensive prep or intensive cook time. If it’s needing to stay up to date, all the time, at every moment with the latest news developments because you don’t want to be out of the loop, try cutting down your consumption or restricting your news intake to certain times of the day instead of catching up on it every time you find yourself with an unscheduled moment (yes, I’m directing that towards you, my bathroom scrollers).
The goal shouldn’t be to alleviate all pressure from all directions, because, well, hello more pressure! Find a starting point where you can allow in some ease. You might find that once you’ve experimented and found something that works, you’ll be able to replicate that in other areas.
Play With Your Pace
One of the ways to reduce pressure is to reconsider the pace at which you are moving. It's easy to hear a concept like "reconsider your pace" and immediately feel like there's no way that is possible for you. Instead of trying to reduce pace overall or on a large-scale basis, experiment with where you can adjust it a little bit. Consider it field research! Select one activity in your day or week, something you do fairly regularly, and see if you can approach it a bit more slowly and mindfully. Pay attention to how it feels when you approach it this way. Was it challenging? Did it feel better? Were there any adverse impacts to slowing down, even just a tiny bit? From there, you can keep applying the same concept until you hit on a few areas where you can relax your pace and enter into the activity with more presence.
Nicole Lance is a women’s leadership development expert, facilitator, executive coach, speaker, strategic planner, and promoter of self-care. She is passionately committed to helping organizations and individuals succeed in reaching - and reaching beyond - their goals.