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In your schooldays you are told to try harder, not be lazy, pull your socks up, fulfil your potential. The belief is implanted into you, ‘If I really wanted to, if I really tried, I’d be able to…’.

The result is pressure, tension and a negative conditioning around learning, work and study.

The thought of ‘work’ is negatively stored in your action memory. For a scientifically researched example of how the growing adolescent’s organism reacts to this type of pressure, see here.

Having been associated in your body memory with unpleasantness, anxiety or fear, future analogous demands and situations evoke similar feelings, thoughts and reaction patterns. What is the consequence? First of all, you postpone the carrying out of your task as long as possible. Then you only begin to attend to the problem when time pressure becomes unavoidable, the exam approaches or the work deadline threatens. Next you find yourself caught in a cycle of tension, avoidance, fear, exhaustion and, finally, chronic stress.

Anxiety, depression and burn-out have a lot to do with excessively high demands as well as the way you feel you need to go about meeting them. The mountain of tasks –  the pressure on you – lead to your doing even routine tasks with heightened (actually unnecessary and counterproductive) strain. When you are overloaded, your capacities for perceiving and judging are relatively limited. This leads to ineffective ways of dealing or engaging with problems and tasks, and to an increasing exhaustion, which in turn creates more anxiety, because you notice you can no long react to the situation in an appropriate way.

The unconscious attempt to overcome or master the situation paradoxically creates more strain than a more easeful, calm approach – but the latter is a skill that requires considerable practice through stress management therapy.