There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor and is often essential in helping you to carry out your job, particularly when something needs to be done quickly. It can help you to work at your best, achieve your goals and perform better.
Stress occurs when this pressure becomes excessive and it is a natural reaction which is also called our fight or flight response. It is not an illness but a state. Acute stress can occur when faced with a challenging situation, such as a job interview or exam, and is natural, and it is when this state remains and becomes chronic that mental and physical illness can develop.
The diagram and table below will help you identify how your performance level is impacted when pressure increases:
While workload suggests staff in schools are less likely to be under level of pressure A and often in C and above, there will be times when people may be under used and looking for greater responsibilities and other opportunities.
The table suggests what might be the impact for each level of pressure and steps you might take to better manage each one.
Your first steps in understanding the difference between pressure and stress
- Be aware of what puts you under pressure and might lead to stress.
- Accept that it is natural to feel pressure and even stress for short periods.
- Learn to recognise when your feelings (emotions and mindset) and the pressure this causes become excessive and/or prolonged, and you are in the strain and crisis sections to the right of the diagram and bottom of the table.
- Take action, for example take a break or switch tasks to help you remain productive, resilient and well.
- Read the other resilience articles and chat cards to identify those specific actions that resonate for you.
It is important to build an understanding of how both you, your team and colleagues are experiencing pressure. You can use the above diagram and table to plot where you feel you and they are currently. You could even share this diagram in a team briefing or 1-to-1s and ask everyone where they would say they are on the curve. It’s a useful tool for identifying what support everyone needs to keep them in the optimal performance area.