Stress is what happens when the demands placed on us are (or seem to be) greater than the resources we have to deal with them. When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones. It’s those hormones that cause the “fight or flight” response we feel when we’re under pressure.
Almost all of us will experience stress during our working lives. And in small doses, there’s nothing wrong with that. Stress can be motivating and enlivening. It can be the push we need to get a difficult job over the line but too much stress can be problematic. It can impact your mood, making you feel anxious and irritable. It can affect your self-esteem and damage your relationships. It can even cause physical problems such as headaches, high blood pressure and an impaired immune system. In summary, it’s bad for your wellbeing.
Stress is a significant problem in the UK. Research by Mental Health UK found that 74% of people have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope as a result of stress. It’s therefore vital we consider practical steps we can take to manage the pressures and stresses we’re inevitably going to come up against during our working lives:
- Be observant: brush up on the symptoms of stress so you can spot them in yourself.
- Be realistic: don’t set unachievable targets – make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, resourced, time-bound).
- Prioritise: split your workload into manageable chunks and list them in order of priority to feel more in control.
- Reward yourself: when you complete a task, congratulate yourself to acknowledge what you’ve achieved.
- Set boundaries: don’t feel guilty for saying no when you’ve not got capacity.
- Reach out to friends: talking can lighten the load and provide a fresh perspective.
- Make time for wellbeing: taking time out to do things you enjoy can break the stress cycle and ensure you’re more productive when you return to your to-do list.
There’s also lots of things employers can do to help staff experiencing high levels of stress. And taking these sorts of steps can bring real all round benefits, as stressed employees tend to be less productive and more prone to making mistakes.
- Check In: one-to-ones needn’t focus solely on KPIs – instead they provide an opportunity for you to check in with your staff and for them to voice any concerns.
- Be flexible: flexible working, whether in relation to hours, location or both, assists many employees and particularly those with caring responsibilities.
- Recognise achievements: high pressure doesn’t have to mean high stress and providing praise and encouragement can help stop pressure getting out of hand.
- Provide training: a lack of adequate training can cause employees to feel anxious and less confident in their abilities.
- Encourage interaction: stress can be exacerbated by isolation, so interaction, whether during the working day or specific social activities, can help staff feel more comfortable talking to and relying on one another.
- Set an example: role modelling healthy behaviours that help you manage stress can be hugely beneficial to your team members who will then feel able to do the same.
- Train Mental Health First Aiders : being able to signpost help for someone suffering badly from stress can be vital so consider training your staff to become a mental health first aider.
- Employee Assistance Programmes: offering an EAP shows staff you value them and provides them with practical, tangible support, such as counselling services.
Loch Associates Group can work with you to provide wellbeing services tailored to the needs of your organisation, including stress management training, staff wellbeing workshops, mental health first aid training and health and safety reviews and support. You can contact Amy White, Head of Training & Wellbeing by emailing [email protected]