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April marks the return of Stress Awareness Month – the wellbeing campaign aimed at raising awareness of stress and promoting stress free living

According to a survey carried out by Forth, 85% of UK adults experience stress on a regular basis.

So what is stress? Stress is our body’s response to a harmful life event or threatening situation, regardless if the threat is genuine or not. Stress can affect people in a variety of different ways and severity. What may be perceived as a stressful situation by one person, may be of little concern to another, and some individuals are better able to handle stress than others.

Although we should state that not all stress is bad. In some cases, small amounts of stress can help you accomplish tasks. For example, feeling “butterflies” in your stomach before a job interview or an important presentation. These types of positive stressors are short-lived, and your body’s way of helping you get through what could be a tough situation. Our bodies are able to handle small amounts of stress but we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.

If you want to test your stress levels, you can visit the Stress Management Society’s online stress guide.

Some of the common symptoms of stress to watch out for can be split into four areas: psychological, emotional, physical and behavioural. The symptoms that affect you will often accumulate until you are forced to take notice of them, such as:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Experiencing chest pain and a rapid heartbeat.
  • Being in a constant state of worry
  • An increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caff­eine or drug use.

Did you know that work-related stress is the 2nd most commonly reported cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain? It accounts for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases, and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health. Whilst you can’t control everything in your work environment, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. Even when you find yourself in a difficult situation. Whatever your ambitions or work demands, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress, improve job satisfaction, and boost your well-being in and out of the workplace.

While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health which can cause accidents and negligence in the workplace, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even mean the difference between success and failure on the job so can knock your confidence.

Is your workplace stress getting too much? A little bit of stress can help you stay focused, be energetic and help you meet new challenges in the workplace. It’s what keeps you on your toes to prevent accidents or costly mistakes. In today’s hectic world, long hours, tight deadlines, and ever-increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, drained, and overwhelmed. And when stress exceeds your ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your mind and body—as well as to your job satisfaction. If stress on the job is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to take action.

No matter what you do for a living, or how stressful your job is, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work:

  • Be organised: Planning ahead can greatly decrease stress at work. This can result in less time spent rushing in the morning to avoid being late and being more efficient with your work.
  • Track your ‘triggers’. Keep a stress diary and try and identify which situations create the most stress and how you have been responding to them. How can you respond better? Develop healthy responses to the most common triggers.
  • Walking lunches: One way you can help de-stress is by taking a walk during your lunch break. This can help clear your mind, lift your mood and improve your fitness. Take that time to re-charge
  • Eat well: Long working hours and heavy workloads can often create a vicious circle of not eating properly and skipping meals, resulting in you feeling sluggish and low. Eating well balanced meals away from your desk will help you to keep healthy and maintain your energy for busy days at work.
  •  Talk: Don’t bottle things up. Talk to your supervisor or Manager. They may be able to help offer you a solution

Personal stress is another common cause, Help reduce this stress by:

  • Talking: Take time out to talk to someone with an empathetic ear and get their perspective on things. It could be a friend, a family member or a colleague. If you can talk to your manager about how you feel, they may be able to support you.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, as well as improving your sleep and self-esteem in the process. Reduce your caffeine intake: High quantities of caffeine can increase stress and anxiety. However, people’s sensitivity to caffeine can vary greatly. If you notice that it makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.

To help raise awareness of Stress Awareness Month, you can spread the word on social media by using the hashtag #StressAwarenessMonth. Another way to help promote the event is by simply being more open with your friends and colleagues regarding stress. Share your coping techniques and try to act more considerately around people who appear to be stressed.

If you need some support, there are a few ways Acorn Health & Safety can help you with this

We are an IOSH approved training provider and proud of our association with the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the world’s largest health and safety organisation. The 1-day IOSH Working Safely course is for people at any level, in any sector, that will boost business performance and staff motivation, simply by showing how everyone can enhance their safety, health and wellbeing through everyday behaviours. . Click here to view further information on the course. For Managers and Supervisors, we also offer the 4-day IOSH Managing Safely course

We understand that Health and Safety can sometimes be a headache with ever-changing legislation, conflicting advice and not to mention pressures of an ongoing workload. Whatever your health and safety needs are, our ‘Hassle Free’ retained consultancy service is here to help. We provide individuals and organisations, like yours, practical advice, knowledge and confidence on all aspects of health and safety, providing as much or as little support as you require. We believe that health and safety can be and should be, ‘Hassle Free’ so you can focus on what you and your organisation do best. As part of the Hassle Free package, you also receive a 10% discount on all Acorn Health and Safety training courses (including IOSH Working Safely)

If you’re unsure what to do with regards to Health & Safety, pick up the phone or drop us an e-mail, we are always happy to talk and offer an initial hour of consultancy free of charge and without obligation.  If you are in or near Bristol we’ll likely invite ourselves around for coffee and relaxing chat!