The following blog is written by Melanie Greene from Inspire Transformation

As part of Stress Awareness month, CRM asked me to write a blog on stress management. As an Occupational Psychologist, my approach when coaching managers and leaders is to explore what it is like when they are in the ‘Zone of Optimal Performance’. How to get into and stay in the ‘Zone’.

Think about:

  • When are you at your best?
  • When do you feel energised, confident, empowered?

When we feel like this we perform at our best, we can cope with challenges, the pressures of work and life, and even disappointments.

It is when we have the right level of pressure and demands in our lives, we become energised. As there is a difference between pressure and stress.

What is stress? How does it differ from pressure?

People often say that stress is natural in a job and in life. They take the attitude of, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. However, this is based on a misconception about the nature of stress and pressure. Many jobs have inherent pressures but they do not necessarily lead to stress. Stress or dis-stress happens when there is either an overburdening of pressures or under stimulation in a job.

The model below spells out the difference between stress and pressure:


This in itself can cause distress in some individuals. This can come about when a job is monotonous or someone has been doing a job for a long time and it is no longer challenging. In some jobs, people may experience periods of low demands and pressure that can also affect performance and motivation.


This is where the demands and pressures within a job and/or from outside of work become too much. An individual goes from being stretched to strained, challenged to overwhelmed.

The zone of optimum performance

The zone of optimum performance will vary for each individual. Therefore, people need different strategies for maintaining this level and managing the demands that are placed on them. When people are getting close to the top of this band, then it does not take much to tip them over into a stressed state.                                                                                                                       

Life during the pandemic

For many, the pandemic has tipped people out of the Zone of Optimal Performance into overwhelm and stress. Homeschooling, pressure on businesses, WFH, with the associated lack of camaraderie of their colleagues. Plus the lack of variety socially and being unable to do some of the activities that would relieve the pressure.

One participant in a workshop commented on the fact that perhaps everyone’s Zone of Optimal Performance has got smaller, and I agreed that is probably so. 

Applying the model to your life

  • Where are you currently at on this model?
  • Do you go from one band to another?
  • What factors, in or out of work, move you from the optimal performance band into being stressed and overwhelmed?

Your experience of the Zone of Optimal Performance

Think about times when you have been in the Zone of Optimal Performance:

  • What has that been like for you?
  • How did you behave?
  • How did it feel?
  • What did you sound like and look like to others?

Getting into & staying in the Zone of Optimal Performance

  • What actions can you take or activities can you engage in that will help you to cope with the pressures that you face and enable you to move into and stay in the Zone of Optimal Performance?

For more information & free resources

For free resources, support and inspiration visit my website and register to receive my monthly coaching newsletter, Inspire and Melanie’s Monday Motivational Messages. Or email Melanie Greene or call 01865 377334.

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