Dear Reader

Over the years we have carried out many projects related to managing stress within organisations and even though the concept of stress is often talked about in the media, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what we mean by stress and pressure. You still hear people saying ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’ or that ‘A certain amount of stress is good for you’. This month we are exploring ‘What is the difference between pressure and stress?’ Next month will we look at "How can you work effectively under pressure?", which will provide lots of hints and tips on how to handle pressure and prevent stress from occurring.

There are still some places left on the Mastering Your Inner Critic, Releasing Your Inner Wisdom (Saturday 4th November 06, Saturday 13th January 07) and Managing Challenging Interactions (Tuesday 28th November 06) workshops that I am running. See the right hand column for more information and the link between these workshops and this month’s topic of dealing with pressure and stress.

Best wishes

Melanie Greene

Melanie Greene

What is the difference between pressure and stress?

  • Pressure vs stress – There is a model I use on my workshops to explore the difference between pressure and stress. This shows that a certain amount of pressure and demands can be stimulating, challenging and stretch us. This is what we call the ‘zone of optimal performance’. It is when we feel energised by the level of demands and pressures that we face, we rise to the challenge and perform well. We might be stretched, but we can cope with the demands.

However, problems occur when either of two situations develop:

    1. The amount of pressure or demands on us increases beyond our ability to cope. Perhaps something happens outside of work, or we have a few sleepless nights or a colleague is off sick and suddenly there are too many demands. This is where we start to feel overburdened, overstretched, we feel the strain of the situation and start to feel stressed.
    2. At the opposite end of the spectrum the demands on us are low, there are no pressures, or we have become so used to doing something it provides no stimulation or challenge. This is where we can become demotivated, demoralised and can suffer just as much as if we were feeling over burdened and stressed.

What is it like when you are in the ‘zone of optimal performance? How do you feel, think and behave?

What are the signs within you that the demands are getting too much? Or that there is a lack of challenge and stimulation in your life?

‘Learn to distinguish between straining and stretching yourself - the former leads to injury, the latter to development’  Anne Dickson – A Book of Your Own

  • Managing stress vs dealing with pressure – we are often asked by organisations to help their staff to ‘manage stress’ more effectively. But our stance is to help individuals to ‘work effectively under pressure’. This might seem a bit pedantic, but words and phrases have a very powerful influence in how we think and feel about a situation. Focussing on managing stress is about symptom management (which has it’s place), while focussing on managing pressure is about taking action to avoid stress from occurring or to get back into the ‘zone of optimal performance’.

Are you focussing on stress or pressure? What can you do to manage the pressures you face?

  • Exploring the demands – Many of us face real demands in our lives: work deadlines, demands from customers, staff or other departments; long, difficult commuting; bringing up children, ferrying them around to a 101 out of school activities – to name just a few. Sometimes we can run around like a headless chicken and it is only when we talk to a coach or a crisis makes us sit down and look at our lives that we realise where our priorities are and perhaps what we want to delegate, re-negotiate or leave behind.

But sometimes when the pressures are increasing and we are starting to feel stressed part of the problem can be that the perceived demands on us are not necessarily the real demands. I don’t know about you but if I am sliding out of my ‘zone of optimal performance’ I can start seeing the things that I have on my plate as bigger than they are. Yet the reality of getting down to write a newsletter, sort out X or Y, is easier than I had thought in my overwhelmed state. A coaching client finds it useful during ‘aagghh’ moments, when more demands and deadlines are dumped on them, to take a deep breath, take a mental step back, look up and see themselves carrying out the tasks they have to do. This process makes the demands seem manageable and has a direct impact on their levels of stress.

What are the actual demands that you face each day and week?

Are there times when the perceived demands outweigh the actual ones?

If so, take a step back, take a deep breath and mentally adjust your view of what is ahead of you.

‘If you’re suffering in your life right now. I can guarantee that you’re somehow attached to how things should be going.’ Dr Wayne W Dyer

Want more Inspiration? If you want any support in understating the difference between pressure and stress, we can offer 1:1 support, consultancy advice and group workshops to assist you in doing this. Just call 01865 377334 or email to arrange a time to speak in confidence. For more information about Grovelands visit our website:  

Feel free to pass this issue of ‘Inspire’ onto others – if you have been forwarded this issue and would like to receive your own copy each month, click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Our new series of public workshops

In coaching and training people, there often are two things that can create or add to the pressures that people face and create stress:

  1. Challenging relationships with colleagues, clients, the public, friends and family. Including not knowing how to negotiate deadlines, priorities, and manage boundaries with others.
  2. Creating our own inner pressures by listening to our inner critic rather than our wisdom. We can literally make our own inner hell and stress.

This is where the two public workshops that I am running can help:

Mastering Your Inner Critic, Releasing Your Inner Wisdom

Saturday 4th November 06

Saturday 13th January 07

Managing Challenging Interactions

Tuesday 28th November 06

These are one day workshops with follow up email coaching support, plus the option of telephone coaching. They cost £100 inc. VAT and located just north of Oxford within easy reach of motorways, with free parking.

For more information or to book a place email or call Melanie on 01865 377334


Look out for November’s issue of ‘Inspire’ that will explore the questions ‘Do you work effectively under pressure?’. This will contain lots of ideas and techniques for managing pressures in your life, reducing the chances of becoming stressed, as well as taking remedial action if you slip out of the ‘zone of optimal performance’.


Grovelands provides:

Consultancy advice

in-house and public workshops

to individuals, partnerships, SMEs and national organisations.

See  for more details

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