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The 5 Stages of Pressure and How to Cope

Stress itself is not an illness, however it can be a significant contributing factor to and even trigger illnesses and poor health. Excess stress can lead to physical, mental and emotional difficulties, but if we can learn to better manage pressure this can help to reduce the level of stress we experience.


We all face pressure from numerous sources throughout our day-to-day lives, both personally and professionally. 


Pressure is inevitable, however reactions to pressure can differ dramatically from person to person depending on the situation and their mental and physical resilience. We can react either positively or negatively when pressure presents itself, and the way in which we view a pressurised situation can come to define the outcome.


Focusing on developing our resilience to work WITH pressure can be extremely rewarding and enable us to fulfil our potential.


The following diagram demonstrates the relationship between pressure and performance across 5 stages.



Boredom Zone

Without stimulation and challenge we become bored and under-achieve.


Comfort Zone

With a little more pressure we enter a zone where we feel comfortable.  We don’t hit peak performance within this zone however, and if we remain in the left-hand side of this zone, we can be far from productive.


Stretch Zone

This is where we perform at our best. However, we need to dip back into the comfort zone regularly in order to collect ourselves and recharge our batteries. If we remain in the stretch zone for too long, we risk slipping into the strain zone.


Strain Zone 

When we move into the strain zone our performance level begins to suffer. Stretching ourselves for too long without breaks can result in pressure boiling over into stress. We can feel tired and fatigued and we experience problems with concentration. Creatively and intellectually our productivity falls away.


Panic Zone

When we are severely stressed, we are at risk of detrimental health issues. In the panic zone, the effects of pressure are highly pronounced, and we can reach burnout, exhaustion and may even break down.


We cannot escape the impact of pressure. However, we can avoid much of the negative effects of pressure by working on our response to it. 


Resilience is Key

Our ability to cope with and manage pressured situations is determined by our resilience. A high level of resilience can massively boost our ability to maintain and enhance our effectiveness when presented with fast-paced, highly pressurised and changing environments.

So, what does a resilient person look like?


Mental Well-being

A resilient person demonstrates confidence, adaptability and flexibility, even in a fast-paced, pressurised and culturally diverse environment.


They can recognise the warning signs of excess pressure, understand what aspects of a situation are within their control and effectively create and implement mental coping strategies before pressure gives way to stress.


Physical Well-being

We can become more physically resilient by developing our physical fitness, getting sufficient sleep, and consuming a healthy and nutritious diet.


A resilient person displays energy and stamina when tackling their goals.


A holistic approach is necessary when seeking to develop our resilience as without physical resilience it can prove difficult to employ our mental coping strategies.

For more information on pressure and how to cope, please visit KTL’s employee assistance programs:


Health Assured EAP: https://healthassuredeap.co.uk/

Laya Healthcare EAP: www.layaeap.ie


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