We live in a world where stress is almost unavoidable, it is part of our everyday lives and although it can be beneficial; allowing us to stay focused and motivated.
However, it can become a problem and have a negative impact on a person’s mental wellbeing, productivity and effectiveness when it is a consistent feeling or becomes overwhelming.
With increasing levels of absenteeism relating to workplace stress, it is increasingly important for employers and employees themselves to recognise the early signs of stress to ensure a mentally healthy workplace where people feel happy, healthy and supported.
Stress can affect everyone in different ways and people have different tolerance levels of stress. Having a healthy stress tolerance and being able to manage it means paying attention to building pressures and acknowledging your limitations.
There are a few common symptoms that can help in recognising when things are getting to an unmanageable level:
- Physical symptoms can include tension, high blood pressure, fatigue and low energy.
- Mental symptoms such as over-worrying, irrational thoughts, forgetfulness, inability to focus, and being overly negative.
- Emotional symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, out of control, agitated, frustrated, having a lack of confidence, self-esteem and motivation.
There are some simple ways to help manage stress in a healthy and effective way, both for yourself and for those around you.
- Recognise the signs
Being able to understand the root cause of stress is an important factor in helping to overcome it. Writing down and keeping a note of thoughts and feelings about a situation, how you reacted or dealt with it and any relating circumstances can help you to better understand why you are feeling how you are.
- Develop healthy responses
If you are feeling your stress levels rising, try to manage positively and make healthy choices to minimise the impact on your wellbeing. For example, do some exercise – this is a great stress reliever, or make time for a hobby, whether it’s cooking, reading, watching a film – do something you enjoy that is not work focused. Getting enough sleep is also super important, so if you’re feeling that burnout, make sure you get in a few early nights and try to develop a healthy sleep pattern. Limiting stimulating activities such as watching TV or scrolling your social media before sleep can help with this as well.
- Establish boundaries
With the constant availability to emails and mobile phones, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘I’ll just answer that email quickly at 11pm and feel that pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establishing some work-life boundaries for yourself can alleviate some of that pressure and allow you to cut off for a period.
Whilst having a clear-cut divide between work and home life may be impractical for some people, creating some boundaries can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it. So, it may mean for you a rule not to check your email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner.
- Take time to relax and recharge
We need time to relax and recharge our batteries to avoid any negative effects of stress and workplace burnout. This requires “switching off” from work by having time when you are neither engaging in any work-related activities nor thinking about work. This will allow you to get a break and unwind so you can come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best.
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can also help re-focus and alleviate the symptoms of stress.
- Build a supportive culture
Employee health and wellbeing is essential for a motivated, productive workforce so as an employer, creating an environment to promote this is important! Therefore, as a business, promote a culture of openness and trust amongst colleagues to encourage communication and for employees to reach out for support if they need help. Have regular check ins with employees, monitor any behaviours or signs that may indicate a problem and you can even offer external confidential support such as an Employee Assistance Program. Also, having a Mental Health First Aider in the workplace who can assist in recognising symptoms, support those who are in need and can guide the person to the relevant help as needed.
- Reach out for support
If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Everyone needs support from time to time and that should not be seen as a weakness. Accepting help from trusted friends, family members or colleagues can improve your ability to manage stress.
Talking about any issues can often make a difference, getting things off your chest, and working with someone to set realistic targets, priorities tasks to make more manageable.
Make use of any resources provided by an employer such as an employee assistance program (EAP), HR departments, or using the many free helplines or online resources.
If you do continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress or your own efforts are not making a difference, you may want to talk to your GP or a psychologist, who can help you better manage your stress and give advice to change any unhealthy behaviours.
Taking these small steps can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing and make a big difference in helping to tackle stress in the workplace.
If you need advice on this subject or other HR issues around employee health and wellbeing, please get in touch with us – firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 538 5311