How to Stop Putting Pressure on Yourself

Cut Down on Self-Imposed Stress

man standing outside with his eyes closed, enjoying a moment of peace
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We face enough stress in life without putting more on ourselves, but that's exactly what many of us do, in one way or another, sometimes without even realizing it. The first step toward easing off of yourself is to realize when you might be making things harder on yourself unnecessarily.

Without blaming yourself, why not learn what you can do to stop the self-sabotage and be your own strongest ally in stress relief? Here are some of the best ways to make the most of your life and cut down on self-imposed stress.

Understand High Achievement vs. Perfectionism

Many people slip into perfectionistic habits, not realizing that there is a better way to do their best without beating themselves along the way. Many perfectionists, on some level, believe that they need to attain perfection or they have failed; this belief can not only lead to stress, it can actually lead to less success than the attitude of a regular high-achiever! 

An important first step is to recognize the difference between perfectionism and high-achievement and really understand why perfectionism is more a form of self-sabotage than an asset. When it comes to stress, "do your best" is better than "be perfect," and in the long run, it's healthier as well.  

If you find yourself emotionally "holding onto" mistakes you've made, noticing more of what you've done wrong than what you've gotten right, and getting anxious when you do a good-but-not-perfect job, be aware that there is a better way.

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Balance Being a Hard Worker and Type A Behavior

Working hard can lead to less stress if it translates into greater resources and a sense of accomplishment. "Type A" behavior, which can be associated with an extreme version of a strong work ethic, on the other hand, can be hard on your mental and physical health, as well as your relationships. 

"Type A" people tend to experience health issues to a greater degree than the average enthusiastic and balanced hard workers, and can engage in behaviors that are less than healthy as well. You may not be able to change your personality, but you can soften the edges and shift your focus toward being more relaxed, and that can make all the difference.

Lead a Balanced Life

Leading a full life is great, but if you don't live a balanced life, you can feel too stressed, too much of the time. How can you draw the line between being excitedly busy and overwhelmed? 

You can start by paying attention to how you feel at the end of the day, at the end of a weekend (when you're about to start a new week with new challenges), and taking a careful look at your life to see if you have enough time for maintaining self-care activities on a regular basis, including:

  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Nurturing relationships

Taking care of yourself is essential for stress management, and no other goals should be put above it, or you won't be able to reach those goals as effectively—exhausted people lose momentum eventually.

Think Like an Optimistic, Not a Pessimist

Many people are afraid of positive thinking, likening it to a mental trick where you ignore important problems or valuable cues in life, and eventually, make mistakes that bring even more stress. 

Actually, realistic positive thinking (focusing on the positive without completely ignoring and failing to address issues that require a response) can help you to be more effective in your life, and less stressed along the way. 

One of the best positive thinking strategies you can adopt is optimistic thinking, which is a specific pattern of thinking that allows you to focus your attention on the accomplishments that maximize your confidence and allow you to do your best in the future.

Allow Yourself to Feel, Then Feel Better

You may have heard that it's not healthy to "stuff your emotions" or to deny you feel the way you feel. This is true. 

While it is important to find a balance between acknowledging your emotions and engaging in rumination, remaining in denial is not healthy either. 

A more effective way to help yourself through stressful times is to become more aware of how you feel and why by journaling, talking things out with a close friend, or talking to a therapist if necessary, and then working toward engaging in activities that will give you a healthy emotional lift and moving on.

Accept Your Weaknesses, and Everyone Else's

You may have known by the title of this article that a great way to relieve stress is to simply ease up on yourself—give yourself a break. You can also relieve stress by giving everyone else a break as well.

Don't take things as personally, don't hold onto grudges, and try to see the best in people by understanding how things may feel from their perspective. Learn to forgive yourself and others for past mistakes. 

There are many effective ways to do this, but the loving-kindness meditation is one that incorporates the highly effective stress management tool of meditation in a way that helps lift your mood and helps you relax.

A Word From Verywell

It's tough to stop putting pressure on yourself. You might even be afraid that if you relax a bit, things will fall apart. But putting less pressure on yourself can be key to feeling better and living a better life.

If you're feeling the pressure and are struggling to let go, consider reaching out for professional help. Talking to a therapist may help you put less pressure on yourself so you can get the most out of life.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lichtenstein MB, Malkenes M, Sibbersen C, Hinze CJ. Work addiction is associated with increased stress and reduced quality of life: Validation of the Bergen Work Addiction Scale in Danish. Scand J Psychol. 2019;60(2):145-151. doi:10.1111/sjop.12506

  3. Conversano C, Rotondo A, Lensi E, Della Vista O, Arpone F, Reda MA. Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2010;6:25-29. doi:10.2174/1745017901006010025

  4. Zeng X, Chiu CP, Wang R, Oei TP, Leung FY. The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: A meta-analytic review. Front Psychol. 2015;6:1693. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.