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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. It has been held every April, since 1992, to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

April is also host to World Health Day which happened on the 7th April with this years theme ‘our planet, our health’. WHO (World Health Organisation) will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. A polluted planet, increasing diseases like cancer, asthma, heart disease

WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. This includes the climate crisis which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The climate crisis is also a health crisis. Over 90% of people breathe unhealthy air resulting from burning of fossil fuels. A heating world is seeing mosquitos spread diseases farther and faster than ever before. Extreme weather events, land degradation and water scarcity are displacing people and affecting their health.

This year’s  Stress Awareness theme is Community.  Lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness. Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that the community support experienced by many people during this challenging time continues.  Although restrictions have been lifted, people need support now more than ever as they adjust to a new way of living.

Disrupted social lives, the cancellation of large gatherings, travel restrictions and working from home have kept us in one place for long periods of time. However, one of the positives to emerge from this unparalleled situation has been the community spirit and support shown by so many to so many.

The last two years have been the most challenging we have all ever faced and in 2020 stress support services were overwhelmed by people that are struggling and seeking support.

The HSE Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain that were published 16th December 2021, shows there were 822,000 workers (prevalence rate of 2,480 per 100,000 workers ) suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2020/21. Needless to say the rate was higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels.

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases.

The most recent data shows that compared to all workers, females overall had statistically significantly higher rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety and males significantly lower.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the predominant cause of work-related stress, depression or anxiety from the Labour Force Survey (2009/10-2011/12) was workload, in particular tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure or responsibility. Other factors identified included a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, violence and role uncertainty (lack of clarity about job/uncertain what meant to do

So what exactly 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 would like to 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.
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

Be 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

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

We also provide a range of Mental Health first aid courses to cover both statutory workplace requirements and organisations that want to provide training for their staff. A number of our courses are also suitable for those with a general interest in Mental Health.

Our portfolio of Mental Health First Aid training includes:

Our Elearning Stress Management course covers 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.

To help raise awareness of Stress Awareness Month, you can spread the word on social media by using the hashtag #StressAwarenessMonth.