Stress is perfectly natural, and even healthy in moderate doses. Being subjected to a degree of stress also means that our body builds up a resistance to it, in the same way that the body can build up resistance to certain illnesses.
A small amount of stress is similar to a vaccine that is designed to protect against it. However, high levels of stress can lead to a host of problems. It can adversely affect a person’s concentration, mess with sleep patterns, and it can lead to performance and productivity issues in the workplace.
Stress is the leading cause of long-term absenteeism in employees, and one of the leading causes of accident and illness in the workplace, so it pays for modern businesses to help better manage their employee’s stress levels. For all the support that an employer offers, though, it is down to the individual to take advantage of these benefits and to begin the fight against stress.
Investigation has determined that UK businesses alone could save as much as £8bn a year through more effective stress management policies and procedures. The first step to getting help with stress levels is to speak to your line manager or representative. A lot of businesses have introduced policies to help manage stress for their employees. It may be possible to move to more flexible working, alter certain aspects of your role, or get help with tasks that are overwhelming in their complexity or the time it takes to complete them.
Try to leave your work at work. It has become commonplace for people to work from home and check emails in the evening, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other devices. This prevents you from being able to switch off after work.
A lot of people work extra hours at home to reduce the level of work, and stress, that they have to endure while they are at work. However, you need to have downtime, and by working from home, you make it very difficult for your brain to separate your work from your home life. Some companies have introduced policies preventing their employees from working at home at night, or even from answering emails during their lunch hour. If these policies are in place, take advantage of them.
Weekends, bank holidays, and holiday entitlement days should be used to give you much-needed downtime. This can enable you to forget about work, at least for a time, and you could head back to work after the break feeling energised and refreshed.
Look at the ways you use to deal with stress when it does surface. Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking, going to the pub for a drink at lunchtime, or heading to the confectionery or snack machine, when stressed. Adopt healthy coping mechanisms. Exercise has proven to help reduce stress levels, so take a walk away from your desk, head outside for a breath of fresh air.
Consider taking up stress-relieving activities. Exercise is a good way to burn off stress and tension, and some companies have their own gym or offer gym membership as a perk of the job. Alternatively, consider activities like yoga or meditation. Techniques like controlled breathing can also help you to combat anxiety attacks and general stress.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re overloaded with work, speak to your line manager. If you’re struggling with stress, speak to your manager and consider visiting a doctor or healthcare professional. Speak to family and friends, too. Even talking about the problems that are causing stress can help to alleviate the problem.
Stress is a problem for the employee, but also for the employer. It is the leading cause of long-term absence, so taking steps to prevent and help combat it should be considered important to any business.
While businesses are improving their awareness of mental health problems, and the mechanisms and procedures that can be put in place to help combat it, there is still a long way to go. However, no matter how many policies a company has in place, and no matter how much training line managers have been given, they can’t help if you don’t tell somebody you’re suffering.
Get help for your staff in the North East