Stress at Work
Stress at Work is one of the largest causes of work related absence and can be indirectly responsible for other causes of absence such as mental health illnesses, musculoskeletal disorders and even physical illnesses such as flu. Not surprisingly, stress has been shown to have a negative impact on performance and relationships with colleagues. So what exactly is stress and how do we better manage stress in the workplace?
What is Stress?
There’s no official definition of stress but it’s commonly accepted to be the physiological and emotional response to a situation of excessive or overwhelming pressure, usually over a period of time. It’s not typically one isolated incident that causes stress, rather it’s the accumulation of events over time that leads us to become unable to cope. Sources of workplace stress can come from both our work and personal lives. Typically the impact of stress at work will be felt on our personal lives and the impact of stress at home will be felt at work.
What are the Signs of Stress?
There are physical, behavioural and emotional signs of stress.
When we are stressed we produce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This is the body’s way of responding to a threat, known as the fight, flight or freeze response. Producing high levels of these hormones over time can make us feel unwell. We may suffer from headaches, feel tired or have an upset stomach. Sometimes our first clues can be simple things like biting our nails or jiggling our knees. How does your body react to stress? Knowing our own physical signs of stress can help us identify triggers and better manage our own stress.
Stress can also cause us to behave differently. We may become snappy with loved ones and colleagues, find it hard to concentrate, or find it difficult to make decisions. We may find we eat too much or too little, or drink or smoke more than usual.
Stress at work can play havoc with our emotions. Our emotional response can range from feeling anxious to angry. We may experience low mood or depression, or feel like we can’t relax. Our sense of humour may disappear and we may feel unable to enjoy ourselves.
Knowing your own signs of stress helps you to recognise when you are becoming stressed and gives you the opportunity to pause and think about what you can do to help the situation.
Techniques for Dealing with Stress
We think of the techniques for dealing with stress in two categories; building our resilience over the longer term, and using coping techniques during times of stress.
Resilience refers to our capacity to positively respond to and cope with difficult situations. These difficulties can occasionally be life-changing traumas or tragedies, but can also be the build-up of pressure or stress in our day-to-day living. A person demonstrating resilience is not only able to handle such difficulties in the moment but is also able to recover more effectively afterwards. The good news is that resilience is not something you either have or you don’t – anyone can develop resilience by managing their thoughts, behaviours and actions.
Resources might include self-awareness, an ability to recognise and manage our energy levels, an understanding of what motivates us, practicing gratitude, physical activity and supportive relationships.
At times of stress we can use various coping techniques, in the moment, to help us cope. Resources might include counting to 10, deep breathing exercises, adjusting our body posture, taking a break, etc.
If you would like to know more about how Willow & Puddifoot can help you and your team better manage stress at work please get in touch or take a look at our Stress Management workshop.
Other Useful Contacts
If you or someone you know needs immediate help for managing stress please see this contact list provided by mind.