A long time ago, I used to work as a lighting designer, specialising in touring with dance companies. I mixed with all kinds of people, and that’s how I met Alison, a professional singer (soprano), working in Scotland.
Even before that, a mentor of mine, (hi Mel!) had explained to me that pressure and stress aren’t the same thing. No matter how much pressure you’re under, if you can handle it (or think you can!) it’s just pressure. If you don’t think you can handle it, it’s stress. It doesn’t matter how much pressure you’re really under – what matters is if you believe you can cope. Simple…
And one of the things that help you cope is feeling like you’re in control.
Let’s go back to Alison, and I’ll show you what I mean.
On Sunday, I met her in a bar in one of the big railway stations in London. We’d both been working there and it was a convenient place to meet before we caught trains back to different parts of the country to go home. Stressed, anxious and upset, Alison threw her work diary onto the table and ranted about the opera company she was working for…
It’s ridiculous! Look at how much work they’re making me do. I can’t keep it up! I’m making myself ill and I’m damaging my voice!
She didn’t actually cry, but there were tears of desperation hovering in her eyes.
We talked and one of the things we talked about (other than the silly price of the beer!) was the fact that Alison was about to quit and become self-employed. And six months later when we met up again in very similar circumstances (different pub but the same idea) she’d done the deed and was now working for herself. This time there were no tears as she tossed her diary onto the table for me to see, declaring
It’s fantastic, look how much work I’ve got! I can barely keep up!
I looked down at her diary and say – you’ve guessed it – that she was working more or less exactly the same amount, for the same people, doing the same things, as she had been the last time we met.
The only difference was that she was doing it for herself and felt like she was in control.
What can you do, to get that feeling, no matter how high the pressure of work?