Stress in the workplace

To launch Stress Awareness Month this April, we take a look at stress in the workplace; how to recognise signs you may be stressed and steps you can take to help you cope. 

We all experience varying levels of stress throughout life whether at home, in our family lives, with health concerns or in the workplace. Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure, threatened or in situations at work that we don’t feel we can manage or control. It might be subtle to begin with, but small things can build up over time and spill into our daily lives and work lives.  

This Stress Awareness Month we are taking action and shining a light on workplace stresses – tools we can equip ourselves with to help us cope and set boundaries for a healthy work-life balance, and signs we should be aware of to prevent burnout.  

Stress in the workplace can feel very personal, and depending on the environment it might not be something we are dealing with properly. There is a significant amount of research showing that stress can be a contributing factor to long-term work absence and job loss. A recent survey conducted by Mind found that one in five workers had called in sick due to stress, and nearly half of workers (48%) had experienced job-related stress in the past year. 

Stress is not normally considered a mental health problem, but it is connected. We often separate mental health and physical health, but stress can lead to numerous health problems. Stress-related health issues can stem from physical problems like heart disease, insomnia and digestive issues and lead to serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Stress in the workplace and how to recognise it 

A certain amount of pressure at work can help motivate you. If the pressure and demands become too much, this can lead to work-related stress. This can have a negative impact on your health and make it harder to do your job effectively. Stress after all is our body’s natural response to dealing with pressure, but when it becomes more than you can cope with it can put you at greater risk of needing time off, and make you feel ill both physically and mentally.  

When work is causing you stress, the sooner you recognise it, the quicker you can take action to make things better. Everyone has the odd day of feeling stressed, but when it’s a regular thing and affects your daily life and sleep patterns, it’s time to speak up, make some changes or get support. 

5 common signs of stress: 

  • Headaches and nausea 
  • Sleep problems, insomnia  
  • Feeling over-burdened or overwhelmed by everything  
  • Feeling Irritable, impatient and quick to get wound up 
  • Racing thoughts, unable to switch off

Be mindful of what is going on with you. Don’t ignore your body when it gives you warning signs. 

Self-care tips to help reduce stress: 

The most important thing you can do when you are stressed or anxious is to make sure you are looking after yourself.   

  • Don’t forget to eat well and drink plenty of water 
  • Even if you feel too stressed, try to get some form of exercise. Just a few minutes can be enough – take yourself away from what you are doing, stretch, go for a walk, get out in nature 
  • Learn to say no to new requests that are too much for you. Have an honest conversation with your manager if you feel it’s piling up and you need help to prioritise 
  • Identify your stressors or stress triggers – write them out, start finding ways to manage them 
  • Once a week, set aside time for a hobby you love or start looking to try something new 
  • Reach out to friends and family or a trusted colleague. Just having someone to talk to can often be a starting point
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