April marks the return of Stress Awareness Month – the wellbeing campaign aimed at raising awareness of stress and promoting stress free living.
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992, to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. According to the Mental health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty to a whole other level and for those of us who struggle with ”the not knowing”, stress can pile up and before we know it, our health might be impacted.
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.
Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns. Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. Mental health is an integral element of our overall health and it should be accepted and acknowledged so that we can learn how to prevent, manage and treat it pretty much in the same way we do with physical health.
Although we should state that not all stress is bad. In some cases, small amounts of stress can help you accomplish tasks. 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. Our bodies are able to handle small amounts of stress but we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.
Is your workplace stress getting too much? 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.
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;
1. 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
2. How can you respond better? Develop healthy responses to the most common triggers.
3. Take time to recharge. Don’t work through your lunch break. Even if you just go for a walk around the building
4. Talk to your supervisor or Manager. They may be able to offer you a solution
5. Get some support. There are a few ways Acorn Health & Safety can help you with this
If you want to test your stress levels, you can visit the Stress Management Society’s online stress guide. We have done some work recently with Sharon Stiles, an experienced hypnotherapist providing sessions in Bristol and worldwide through online hypnotherapy sessions. She offers hypnotherapy, NLP, EMDR, CBT, EFT and Chinosis and has successfully helped people to overcome problems and make dramatic changes in their lives. She also has some free resources too to help you find calmness which reduces anxiety and stress and helps to support your immune system.
We also offer our ELearning Stress Management course. This course will cover an introduction to stress and why it’s a problem, some of the causes of stress and some ways to minimise the risk of stress. It has 4 modules in total and each module concludes with some relevant questions:
- What is Stress and Why is it a Problem
- The Causes and Symptoms of Stress
- The Law on Stress and its Contravention
- Minimising the Risk of Stress
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.
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. 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!