Dealing With Stress

It is estimated that work-related stress is responsible for six million days of sick leave per year, with stress being linked to many major and minor illnesses.

For most of us, work is a significant and meaningful feature of life with the majority of us spending over 25% of our lives working. While work can provide us with structure, purpose, satisfaction, self-esteem and earning power, it can also be a place of stress and worry.

What is Work Related Stress

In today’s workplace, most of us encounter stress to a certain degree. In moderation, it actually enables us to become more productive and some people thrive on it. However, excessive and prolonged stress can take its toll, producing a range of physical and emotional problems which can be overwhelming.

There is no single cause of work related stress. It can be triggered suddenly by unforeseen pressures or can be the result of a combination of factors which accumulate over a longer period of time. The experience of stress is very personal. Some people are affected more than others, so what is stressful to one person might not be for another and it can very much depend on your personality type and how you have learned to cope with pressure.

Causes of Work Related Stress

  • Excessive time pressures or inflexible Working Hours
  • Too much or too little responsibility
  • Confusion over your role and responsibilities
  • Lack of job variety and interest
  • Inadequate training and/or lack of opportunity to learn new skills
  • Poor Work/life Balance
  • Difficult relationships at work
  • Uncertainty over job prospects or a change of role

Physical Symptoms of Work Related Stress

  • Headaches and muscular tension
  • Backache and neck ache
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and other infections
  • Excessive tiredness and difficulty sleeping
  • Raised heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Lower sex drive
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin rashes

Work Related Stress

Emotional and behavioural changes caused by work related stress

  • Wanting to cry much of the time
  • Feeling that you can’t cope
  • Short temper at work and at home
  • Feeling you’ve achieved nothing at the end of the day
  • Eating when you’re not hungry
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reliance on smoking and drinking to get you through the day
  • Inability to concentrate, plan and control work
  • Poor productivity
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or clients
  • Loss of motivation and commitment

Helping Yourself to Cope with Stress at Work

It is impossible to completely eradicate work related pressures so it is important to learn how to ‘manage’ them. There are a number of ways in which you can reduce the negative impact of stress, most of which involve you taking a good look at how you function in the workplace and beyond.

Making Changes at Work to Cope with Stress

Manage your time more effectively – Prioritise tasks, delegate where necessary and take care not to take on more than you can handle. Try to complete one task before going onto the next and vary your workload where possible.

  • Relax – Whenever possible try to do the occasional simple stretching exercise and practice some deep breathing techniques. This will help you stay focused and prevent tired and aching muscles. Going for a walk during your lunch break can be beneficial.
  • Know what triggers your stress – Identify the causes of your stress. Practice how you could act differently in situations where you feel pressurised. Perhaps you need to be more assertive or you may need to ‘take a step back’ in tricky situations.
  • Turn to colleagues for support – Not everyone is out to get you! It’s crucial to remember that it’s in most people’s interests for the workplace to be as stress free as possible so seek advice from your line manager or go to your HR department, whether it is to clarify your job role and responsibilities or to deal with workplace bullying or intimidation.

Making Lifestyle Changes to Deal with Work Related Stress

  • Hobbies and interests – Regular activities outside work will increase your social network and take your mind off work worries. It may be a creative hobby such as painting or by taking up regular exercise such as swimming or cycling. There is increasing evidence that physical activity reduces stress levels quite significantly.
  • Learn to relax – Learning to relax can improve sleep and relieve stress-related physical pains such as stomach pains and headaches. Your GP surgery or the local library will have details of adult education classes where you can learn helpful techniques.
  • Confide in your friends – Talking to close relatives and trusted friends is a useful way to get things off your chest and to discuss your worries and any negative feelings you have. An outsider’s neutral perspective can often change your own for the better.
  • Avoid negative responses – Avoid unhelpful responses to stress such as increased alcohol and caffeine consumption and smoking. Regular healthy and nutritious meals in a balanced high-fibre diet will provide sustained energy levels to keep you on an even keel.
  • Keep things in perspective – At the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back and reflect on what you’ve achieved that day as opposed to worrying about work tomorrow. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to take each day as it comes.

Seeking Further Help for Work Related Stress

Some people may need to seek further help from their GP as they may be suffering from anxiety or depression which needs medical treatment. You may also need to take time off work to deal with anxiety and depression. Further treatment might necessitate the need for anti-depressant medication or some form of counselling and your GP will be able to advice on this.

Stress is an inevitable but complex companion to our working lives. Without challenges and pressures, work would lack sparkle, but we all have the capacity to be overwhelmed by work-related stress, and to experience its exhausting effects. The aim should be to manage stress by becoming aware of our individual ways of responding to it, and through making effective changes to our working lifestyle.

4 thoughts on “Dealing With Stress

  1. Rayne says:

    I work in supported Housing. We have been the subject of a merger and a restructuring. As a result we now lone work all of the time. We have very limited handover times or opportunities to discuss problems. I work in a homeless project. It is stressful, residents frequently breach house rules and abuse and drug use are a daily occurance. In October last year i raised a complaint about being bullied at work and i listed many examples and copied and pasted notes across to evidence my complaint. I copied the bullying Policy, the grievance Policy and the whistleblowing Policy. I went off sick. I had a phone call from a senior manager and an HR rep. I hoped this would deal with the problem. I returned to work briefly in November but it was short lived and i submitted a formal grievance about the way they had completely failed to address my complaint and i cited further incidents. My GP has continued to support me and has signed me off work with ‘stress at work’ and made it clear that he will not sign me back to work until they deal with my complaint. On 14.12.16 i attended a meeting at which HR acknowledged they did not have the correct Policies and Procedures available to me, they had changed my line manager without informing me, they produced a completely seperate Action Plan to the one i had been sent following our discussion in October after i had submitted my initial complaint and they acknowledged that neither of the 2 documents bore any relation to each other and neither had been followed up. I was told that with Christmas and New Year it would take a while for my grievance to be properly dealt with and i was asked if my GP would continue to sign me off to enable this to happen. I was told to expect early to mid January. On 18 th January i emailed HR to request an update, i received an Out of Office reply and the following Monday i was informed he would reply the next day, it didnt happen! But i felt presured to agree to return to work. I replied that this would suggest that my complaint had been dismissed and it was unfair to expect me to return to work without being made aware of the outcome of the grievance. I refused to give my home number to enable him to ring me and said i would prefer him to contact me via email so that i had a record. Eventually i attended a meeting and was presented with 3 notes from interviews with my co workers that formed the basis of the investigation into my complaint. No reference to any of the incidents that i had recorded. No mention of any Policies or Procedures or ACAS Code of Conduct. Just 3 most appalling slanderous character assasination interviews with my co-workers. And recommendations that i undertake training and return to work. I came home and sent an email asking for evidence to support these appalling statements and was told there is none, they are the opinions of your co workers. You have no opportunity to question them you accept the recommendations and agree to return to work. I submitted an ap

  2. carol emmas says:

    I find the more I use my laptop at home, the more stressed I get. I have given it up for two weeks and feel a lot better. We can spend too much time tapping away, it’s not therapeutic it suck the life out of your brain and then I find small things more stressful. Any way it’s working for me.

  3. Dom says:

    I had an interesting sequence of stress a few years back, I was working in a successful school as a lab technician, in fact senior lab technician and had been doing so for a few years . I guess the recession was in full swing as by the time I started what was to be my final year there, I was the only full time experienced technician working with part time relatively inexperienced temporary staff to manage an area split three ways, on both sides of a long building and also on two floors and needing to be in two places at once frequently! Having lost my experienced staff, I had new staff who had lied about their ability and also who had lied about their ability to work legally. So I ended up effectively doing two jobs for most of my last year, including the odd Saturday mornings and working 10 hours a day to keep up. After a term of this, before I even got the unreliable and short-lived staff, I was then told clearly, “If you stay in your job, you will be under great pressure!” having been under great pressure already for a term! (I actually smiled in the meeting on hearing this!) Also, leading up to this, my mother had been ill and, in fact had a major operation in the hospital that was visible outside my window at work!! She recovered well, but when I then received extra targets and hour long meetings to discuss them when I was trying to keep up with the basic work, I arranged an escape plan which involved being rescued by my old school, next door and working with my old chemistry teacher instead for my old school, giving something back. But I kept working up to the end of the year because I had to complete exam preparation in two subjects before I could even think of leaving.. This was then positive stress. Instead of feeling down I turned it around and put everything into my work for the sake of the pupils, I really wanted them to succeed, in fact I turned down an interview, a lifeline because I had to prepare an exam ! However, I then, by leaving, took a salary drop of 5K, which meant I had to give up my flat. I then ended up on the other side of town living with two manic-depressive chain- smoking alcoholics on the other side of town, renting cheaply but at an additional cost. My workplace had become better but I then had to deal with the “death cloud” of exhaled cigarette smoke and chronically sick alcoholics on the floor, vomiting,once calling 4 ambulances in the space of a week and that after a long day at work and a tiring commute on the tube, This was a different kind of stress to face and it was much more severe!! So from irksome work stress to severe home stress, I had both . All is survivable if you have the right mindset. I am in a much better place now, one which also has a positive mindset and all is well, I escaped the house of sickness too!! All this makes one stronger.

  4. loly says:

    I from last july live only with stress,because I have occupation illness ,but workplace HR never support me not give any option for work ,but when I start ask HO assessment copies,and send complains letters about health issues in workplace dismissal me ,just I have more stress because ,when I lost full right hands capacity ,only for deliberate put me for tasks what more at risks for my hands ,just I proved disability ,but I get only 33 pounds per week,but I need live and work ,pension only 10 year,i lost all interest for live,because I can help my daughter for full time study in NTU IN Nottingham,i long time try make personaly injuru claim ,but my workplace liear,tell this no reportable injurus,but HSE written I have to make complain,whoes can help in my situation?

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