12th July 2019
Did you know that in excess of half a million people in the UK suffer from work-related stress? Whether you did or not, it doesn’t stop the statistic from being both shocking and concerning.
Work-related stress has many negative effects on both the employee and their company, with countless implications to health and productivity alike.
What is Stress?
To put it simply, stress is the reaction our body gives when put under pressure from a situation or life event.
The contributors to stress can vastly vary from person to person, as no two of us are ever exactly the same. They will also depend on our social and economic circumstances, our living environment and, last but not least, our very core and essence – genetic makeup.
Commonly, things that can make us feel stressed include:
- Experiencing something new or unexpected (this can be good or bad).
- Something that threatens your feeling of self.
- Feeling as though you have little or no control over a situation (again, good or bad).
NB: I want to take a second to focus on those words in brackets above. It’s really important to appreciate that stress isn’t always brought on by negative experiences. You could be going through something very happy or exciting, but feel stress based purely on the fact that you have no control over the situation. For example, you know you have a milestone birthday coming up and suspect that your family are throwing you a surprise party, but you feel uncomfortable not knowing the details, who will be there or where you are going. While this is a positive experience that you know you will end up loving, this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety nonetheless.
When we are feeling stressed, our bodies are stimulated to produce a hormone which wakes up our ‘fight or flight’ instinct and activates our immune systems.
Sometimes, this response from our bodies can be a blessing in disguise as it can help us to find the strength to push through difficult situations – for example, pitching a new idea at work or attending a job interview. We are usually able to return back to a resting state without any negative effects on our health if the stress is short-lived. Most people are able to cope with stress to a certain level without experiencing any long-term effects.
However, there are some occasions when stress can become excessive and simply too much to handle. If we are in a stressed state for a prolonged period of time, or if the stress recurs often, our bodies can find themselves in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’, leaving you constantly on edge, anxious and run down, in turn leaving us open to all sorts of physical and mental health implications.
NB: Stress is your body’s reaction to a threat in a situation; whereas anxiety is your body’s response to the stress itself.
What Causes Stress?
We’ve already established that stress can be a result of both positive and negative events and situations, but let’s take a look at some examples of those.
- Landing a new job.
- Getting a promotion.
- Taking annual leave.
- Being invited to a company event.
- Being offered the chance to travel with your work.
- Being offered to relocate.
- Losing a job.
- Not getting the promotion.
- Being refused a pay rise.
- Unmanageable workload.
- Issues with work colleagues or management.
- No recognition for your work.
The fact is that any factor in life, be it good or bad, has the potential to cause stress depending on you as an individual; the trick is it identify the signs of stress in yourself in order to figure out what situations make you feel stress and work on how to tackle that particular issue.
What Signs Should you Look out for?
There are three main signs you should look out for when thinking about whether you are feeling stressed.
- Emotional Changes
- Behavioural Changes
- Bodily Changes
How to Handle Stress
Now you know what to look out for, you’re halfway there already. The biggest key to helping yourself with stress is to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings. If you can identify your feelings of stress and anxiety then you can put steps in place to prevent the stress from recurring.
Here are some useful tips to handle work related stress:
- Chances are after a stressful day you kick back with a few beers or glasses of wine. During the day you might be chugging coffee by the mugful to try and counteract the sleeplessness that stress brings. However, you should try and limit excessive drinking of both caffeine and alcohol as these can compound issues and make you feel even worse. Dealing with stress AND a hangover or a racing heartbeat is not going to help the situation.
- If you find that disciplines such as meditation and yoga help you relax, try and build some time into your day for a few minutes of quiet. You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive classes – there are plenty of apps or YouTube videos that will guide you through a short session.
- Similarly, getting physical will release endorphins that help you see and feel things in a more positive light. Again, you don’t need to find the time and/or money to hit the gym. Getting into the habit of going for a walk on your lunch break should help clear your head and give you space to breathe. Exercise is great, but combine it with fresh air and your mind will thank you.
- Finally, it’s crucial to start saying ‘no’. If you’re at breaking point, and especially if you’re not sleeping, adding yet another thing to your work to-do list isn’t the way forward. If you typically struggle to put your foot down, speak to a manager or HR person and ask for support. After all, it’s in their best interests that you get help and reduce stress so you are able to return to the positive and productive employee that you really are.
Whatever you do to relieve stress, make sure that it’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle; and most importantly, don’t worry if something doesn’t work. Much like with the triggers of stress themselves, we are all different and so what works for one person might not necessarily work for another – and remember that you are not alone. If you need extra support, it’s available for you.
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.