When Pressure Builds


It’s so interesting to me how pressure affects different people so, well, differently. Some people seem to speed up and work themselves into a frenzy. Others seem to shut down and become immobilized. And I think we all reach a breaking point where we simply can’t take any more. What happens to you when pressure builds? And why does that happen? Turns out we can find some clues in our hard-wired nature.


I’m very low on the patience scale. I like things to move quickly. I want responses and answers as immediately as possible, if not sooner. And that’s in my natural, non-stressed state. Add in some pressure, and my ability to be patient for any type of process goes flying out the window. Work on one thing at a time? Nope. Finish anything I’ve started? Not unless I force myself.

People like me thrive on chaos. And we tend to create it around us. When pressure builds for us, we just move faster and more chaotically. It’s not always helpful.


Dani is very high on the patience scale. She doesn’t mind a fast-paced environment, but she needs to be able to finish what she starts. When she gets interrupted mid-effort, it’s harder for her to pull her attention fully away from what she was doing.

When pressure builds for people like Dani, they tend to dig in. They can become fixated on one thing at a time, unable to move beyond it until it’s done “the right way”. Sometimes, they will start saying “no” to everything additional coming at them. Even if that’s not a true response.

What can I do about it?

Not much. Your hard-wired nature is what it is. The best you can do is seek out work environments which allow you to function in your natural state most of the time. And if you can’t move to a new environment (or don’t want to), you can seek ways to change it. Have conversations with those you work with to help them understand what you need to function at your best in times of pressure or stress. Silently suffering while you slowly reach your breaking point doesn’t help anyone. Especially not you.

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