Tuesday, 07 July 2020
Life can feel full of pressure sometimes. Especially when we’re trying to figure out who we are, what we want, and how we want our lives to be.
Young people who come to Jigsaw often talk to us about the pressure they’re feeling. Some of the things going on for them include pressure about:
- Fitting in- Having to change who they in order to be included in a group.
- Supporting friends- Feeling they have to respond to friends’ difficulties, even when it interferes with their own wellbeing.
- Conforming- Conforming with an education system that feels unfair and out of line with everything else in their life.
- Performing well in exams- Comparing results and achievements.
- Competing and doing well in sports or other hobbies- This can be to the point where they no longer enjoy it.
- Future plans- Feeling they should know what career path to choose.
- Living up to- Feeling like they have to live up to the expectations of parents. or to match the achievements of siblings.
Where does this pressure come from?
There are many reasons to feel pressurised or under the spotlight. Everyone experiences this sometimes, to a greater or lesser extent.
The expectation to live up to siblings or friends’ achievements that can come from parents and teachers can weigh on us. We can also feel it from our friends when we compare grades and achievements.
Many of us are led to believe our achievements, such as in exams or sports, are what make us valuable as people from an early age. Even our parents can sometimes be fooled by this. They can think they need to push you to achieve for you to be happy.
Feeling pressure to fit in
Fitting into a very rigid system like school can be difficult, especially if it’s not important to us. We may feel we’re not getting anything from it or feel we’re not understood within that system. It can be even tougher if we’ve experienced trauma, or if our home life isn’t as structured or stable as other people’s.
School and competition is not for everyone. There’s a risk that we lose the joy of sport or our hobbies by pushing ourselves to achieve at all cost or by making life all about that achievement.
In our friendships, we can often think that selfless giving of support is a part of life. We can sometimes feel the pressure of having full responsibility for our friends’ happiness and wellbeing. When really, we’re only just one small part of that.
Supporting others doesn’t have to be damaging to our own mental health. Establishing boundaries in friendship is important, for you and your friends.
Fear of missing out
It’s a thing. We can feel it at any age. Unfortunately, some of the things that help us feel connected can also add to our sense of being left out. For example, young people coming to Jigsaw have noted that apps such as Snapchat or Whatsapp can be a source of social peer pressure. Other people’s images and videos posted online can make it feel like everyone is having a great time without us. Images of seemingly perfect lives and appearances can cause us to feel pressure to be a certain way
How can feeling pressure impact us?
Pressure can come from different sources, including from ourselves. For some of us, an overwhelming sense of pressure can cause feelings of awkwardness, worthlessness or hopelessness. We may feel down or lose motivation. It can force us to abandon what is important to us, driving a strong disconnection from our own ideas of who we are and our own identity. This can then cause us to be anxious in social situations. So what can we do when we’re experiencing pressure from friends, parents, teachers?
Figure out what’s important to you
When we ask our clinical staff what helps young people they work with, they often talk of the importance of figuring out what matters to you. What are your values and interests? Spending time on what’s important to you reduces pressure you might feel when you are doing things you don’t value.
Ask yourself, what do you need?
Problems at school or pressure with exams can sometimes be easily managed with a bit of help. Other times it can be necessary to explore what’s needed to survive a system, like school, that you may not be comfortable in. Can you work with your parents and the school to find ways to get what you need out of it? Do you need to be spending so much energy on one or two subjects, leaving no energy for any others?
It’s difficult getting through the week if we’re running on empty. Eating a healthy balanced diet, getting regular exercise and quality sleep will always help with our general coping skills. Developing a tool kit to help face the day can be useful. This could be having a playlist of music that lifts your mood at the ready before you head into school or college.
Coping with social pressure
With our friends and feeling the pressure to conform, it could be time to find a window of opportunity to stick up for ourselves. Recognise what we believe in, not what our friends think we should. This can be very hard, and scary. Sometimes, with real reason, we can be afraid our group will exclude us or make us feel different. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to think about who we’re trying to fit in with.
When changing ourselves to fit in is making us miserable, is it worth it? Are there other groups we can try and be friends with? If it’s just 2 or 3 people in the group that we get on with, can we focus on them? This is easier said than done, but we do have to think about being true to ourselves.
Finding out what matters to us can help to manage feelings of pressure that comes from others. What is meaningful to us and what kind of person we want to be. Connecting with ourselves, what brings us joy and what our values are, figuring out the things we need to do to get through. These are the type of things that will help us to survive the pressures all around us.