Breathe Issue 27

Pressure. It comes in many shapes and guises – the pressure to perform at work, to look after family, to be there for friends. But what about a less tangible burden, one that’s often accompanied by large internalised servings of self-judgment and disapprobation? 

What about the pressure to persevere with a career or friendship, no matter how unfulfilling, because hanging in there and tenaciously driving forward is deemed the appropriate thing to do? Give up and accusations of throwing in the towel often follow.
Yet acknowledging that a job is no longer satisfying or a friendship has for too long been a one-way street (with emotional traffic always flowing in the opposite direction) takes guts. And walking away is often the most positive course of action, opening up room for fresh challenges and more rewarding and equal relationships.

Maybe it’s time to turn down the pressure generally and build in time for greater personal reflection and peace through mindfulness, a path followed by Gillian Higgins, an international-war-crimes barrister and trained meditation teacher. She tells Breathe how the practice has enhanced her resilience as a lawyer and helped her to become ‘a more present and well-rounded human being’.

The burden of external expectations is ever-present and difficult to manage – society has its demands and norms – but it is possible to break free and be you. It might mean leaving an unrewarding job or a dysfunctional friendship. That’s not giving up, it’s moving on. And it’s when walking away is the positive thing to do.