Written By
Max Brown


How can you stop pressure from becoming stress?

Pressure and Stress

One of the most common descriptors people use when describing a start-up environment is “rewarding, but stressful.”  But does the pressure of a fast-paced tech environment necessarily have to turn into stress?  Nicholas Petrie, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, recently wrote an article for Harvard Business review about what turns pressure into stress.  The key that he and his colleagues found was rumination.  When we think too much about the pressure from a situation that we are currently in, we assign negative emotions to that process and that cycle causes stress.

How can we keep pressure from becoming stress?

There have been several times during my career when people in my recruiting and HR department were incredibly stressed.  We were under pressure to find and convince an enormous number of people to work for a small but growing startup.  Hiring strategically was a big requirement because candidates in leadership positions wanted the opportunity to weigh in on their future direct reports.  The biggest issue was the sheer magnitude of hiring that needed to be done quickly across several departments and tiers. My colleagues and I always felt like we were behind and failing.  In reality, we were making a large amount of progress every day on a comparatively huge task. Looking every day at a huge goal looming on the horizon wasn’t helping our stress level, so we broke that large task down into manageable tasks that we could swiftly complete.

Stopping the stress cycle

Nicholas mentions four key ways to break out of negative rumination.  One is to let go.  It sounds simple but in fact is very difficult.  So there are three techniques mentioned to help let go.  First, accept the situation.  It is ok to dislike a situation and at the same time admit that you cannot change what has happened in the past.  Second, learn a lesson.  Ask yourself “what did I learn from this?” Once you answer that, your brain can close this topic and move on.  Finally, take action.  Ask what you can do to help yourself out of this situation.  Then divert the energy you were using to ruminate into task completion.

For the other key ways to help relieve pressure, read the full article, “Pressure Doesn’t Have to Turn into Stress” by Nicholas Petrie courtesy of The Harvard Business Review.