top of page
  • Writer's pictureNick Petrie

How to Separate Pressure from Stress Part 1: What is Rumination?

Why is it possible that two people can go through the same, intense event, yet each have very different responses. The event might leave one person feeling stressed, while the other person might feel relief or relaxed. Same event, but two vastly different experiences. 

While uncovering what was causing different responses to stressful events, researchers uncovered two big ideas.

First, there is a difference between pressure and stress. Most of us lump these together as if they are the same thing. If you combine pressure and stress together then stress is inevitable. But when you split them apart you now have some options. 

Pressure is defined as external demands in your environment. These could be deadlines, workloads, customer demands. 

Do you think everyone in your team has pressure on them? Of course. Do you think that everyone is stressed? Maybe. Maybe not.

Second, researchers uncovered what people who were getting stressed were doing differently to those that weren’t. To convert pressure into stress you had to Ruminate about events. 

What is Rumination?

Rumination is thinking over and over about events from the past, or future and attaching negative emotion to them.

Think about a time in your life when you felt very stressed and notice the extent to which you were ruminating. Now think of an area of your life where you have high pressure but have no stress. Notice that you don’t ruminate about that area of your life. As part of my work, I meet CEO’s and leaders who have extremely high levels of pressure, but very low stress. But don’t you also know people in your life who have very low levels or pressure, yet very high levels of stress. How do they do it? They sit around and ruminate.

In the next blog, I'll share more on why rumination matters. 

Reflection question – What is the area of your life that you are most likely to ruminate about? How helpful is it?

These ideas are based on the research of Dr. Derek Roger and his Challenge of Change program. The above is an excerpt from my new whitepaper: Pressure is not Stress: 4 steps to be resilient in disruptive times. Click here to read the whitepaper.

If you'd like to learn more about Nick's resilience workshops, learn more here.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page