the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 15 Pressure

Posted by themirrenlee on 15/01/2012

Pressure.

Does it always involve stress? Is it always a bad thing?

No to both questions and I’ll tell you why.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot today because of this blog. Anyone who commits to do something on a regular basis is by the very nature of the commitment putting themselves under pressure. This applies, of course, to everything from having a job to being a parent.

I believe the pressure from any commitment comes when you feel you have no choice about it. Then comes the feeling of being trapped, followed by stress.

All commitments aren’t the same, so they each involve different amounts of pressure. Committing to being a parent, a good parent, is the biggest commitment that springs to mind. Bigger even than being in a relationship because parenting should be for life, not just while the mood strikes you. Yes, it’s hard when relationships end, but devastating for life when a parent leaves a child. Committing to meeting someone for lunch, on the other hand, is a lighter kind of pressure.

The pressure of being a parent is so hard that it’s no wonder there are so many stressed parents. Add to that the pressure of working to make a living, maintenance of home and body, maybe studying something, keeping up with friends and family, maybe even the pressure of trying to become parents, and so on, while needing to find time for ourselves, and stress is inevitable.

The question: is it good stress or bad stress?

Peter Hanson wrote, “The Joy of Stress”, and it’s worth a read. He puts forth the idea that not all stress is bad. We need some stress in our lives to get anything done. The trick is to make it “good” stress. I actually think he’s wrong about the word in this context. I think pressure is better. Stress comes AFTER the pressure. If you can manage the pressure then you can manage the stress and turn it into something that feels good rather than bad.

Without pressure of some kind, whether it be someone else’s expectations of you, your own sense of commitment, or a boss tempting you with a paycheck, you might never get out of bed. If you’re a totally self motivated person, then you probably don’t need outside pressure (of course, you may still stress yourself out sometimes with the pressure of your own expectations); most of us, however, need some help with motivation. Pressure is often that help.

It’s a really important topic in society today, with our higher than ever use of medications, especially anti depressants, to help take the edge off the feeling of pressure that people are under, whether you call it depression, anxiety or whatever. (Please note that I’m not talking about organic depression. That’s a totally different ball game and needs medication.)

So how can we make pressure feel better? After all, it’s not like exercise, where the more you do it, the more endorphins you feel! One big thing I do is a form of passive resistance. I tell myself I really don’t HAVE to do something that’s making me feel pressured. I figure out ways I could get help with whatever it is, or work out how I could avoid it completely. Then I don’t feel trapped. Some of the time I actually follow through with this solution, and some of the time just KNOWING that I have an “out” makes me feel less pressured about whatever it is. Yes, this can even apply to parenting. Figure out how to get a break for awhile and you’ll be a much better parent when you get back into it.

The other thing I do is ask myself why I’m doing something that puts me under pressure, like this blog. I learned this years ago when my husband at the time (I’ve had 4!) was driving me to an acting audition and I was so sick with nerves he got irritated (rightly so) and asked me why I put myself through the agony of it all. It made me come to a screeching halt and look at exactly why I DID put myself through it.

“Because I love it!” I wailed. I realized then that if I loved it so much I shouldn’t be dreading it, and needed to change my mindset about auditions. Which I did, and never got nervous again. I might get worked up with anticipation sometimes, but I always change my language so that I call it “excited” instead of “nervous” and have a much better time. I spend a lot of time trying to convince actors that being nervous at auditions is not the “normal” thing everyone tells them it is. I feel the same about job interviews. Remember that fear is only the feeling that you won’t be able to handle something, so get well prepared for whatever you have to do, and then just enjoy it.

That’s why I took on the added pressure in my life of writing this blog – because I enjoy it. The same goes for all the changes I’m committing to this year. I enjoy the feeling of committing to something and then following through with it. Someone once said that if you love doing something, you shouldn’t mind the slog that goes with it. So if you love cooking, for instance, then you shouldn’t mind chopping up vegetables, and actors shouldn’t mind memorizing lines. These should be “good” pressures. Involving not just “good” stress, but no stress.

Enjoyment of what you’re doing, and a belief that you can get a break from it when you need to, are the cornerstones of coping with pressure, and avoiding stress. For those of you who think you could never possibly get a break from whatever it is that’s pressuring you, think again. That’s the way to nervous breakdowns and suicides – passive aggressive ways to withdraw from pressure. There’s ALWAYS a way to get help; you may just have to look really hard sometimes. Which is why you should figure out ahead of time what pressures in your life might get you to a stressed state, and work out contingency plans for dealing with them.

In the meantime, change your mindset and your language about pressure, like I did about auditions, and maybe a lot of the pressure in your life will turn into “because I want to”, instead.

I’m just enjoyin’ …

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