The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has just joined forces with the charity Mind to produce a guide to help small firms support staff who are suffering from stress in the workplace.
The guide aims to tackle the fact that anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress affects one in six British workers each year.
So it’s an apt time to examine how to prevent stress from turning into distress and poor health - your body’s way of telling you to seek help.
No win no fee solicitors Claims Direct can advise you on whether you are eligible for compensation if you’ve been placed under an unacceptable level of stress at work.
But there is plenty of guidance in existence which should be able to help you manage your stress levels long before it reaches a level that you struggle to cope with.
Below is a list of some of the most helpful advice taken from organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive, the NHS, the BBC and the union Acas.
1.Identify whether you have stress – the NHS Choices website gives 14 examples of common stress symptoms. Some of these symptoms – “feeling flustered”, “the feeling that things are hanging over you” - might seem like they are just part of everyday life. Others – “a repetitive tic, such as scratching or hair pulling”, “tearfulness, depression or feeling suicidal” should never be a normal state of affairs. There are many online self-assessment questionnaires which can tell you whether your job is making you ill with stress – once identified you can start to tackle the problem and take control again.
2.Identify what is making you stressed – keeping a stress diary is a good way of monitoring your stress levels. Are there times of the day or the week when you are more stressed than normal? Are certain tasks or work colleagues a trigger for stress? Does the stress manifest itself in feelings of guilt/anger/despair? Do you continue thinking and obsessing about work even when the working day has ended? Asking these questions can help organise your thoughts.
3.Time management – while you are writing a diary looking back at how work events have affected you, why not plan a diary of how you want future working days to pan out. What are your work goals? Can you plan your day more effectively – take more breaks, perhaps get into work earlier and leave earlier? Are you stressed because you’re taking too much work on or stressed because you don’t have enough responsibility? Take the time to plan your time.
4.Exercise – throwing yourself into an enjoyable, taxing activity can take your mind off work and can be a way of making sure that your work life doesn’t spill over into your home life. You can also exercise your mind through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and massage. Professor Cary Cooper, speaking on the NHS website, admits that such peaceful activities might not in themselves solve work stress but might put you “in the frame of mind to start thinking of solutions”. Creative pastimes can also help you break the destructive patterns of thought associated with work stress.
5.Lifestyle adjustments - consider whether the ‘treats’ you award ourselves before, during and after stressful days actually make things worse? Are you inadvertently fuelling your stress through poor diet? Drinking alcohol, extending our cigarette breaks and upping our caffeine intake might help in the short term but are unlikely to tackle the root causes of your stress. Eating healthily and sleeping well can avoid the blood sugar slumps that just make stress harder to deal with.
6.“Be gentle to yourself” - Dr Trisha Macnair, writing on the BBC’s website, advises that being “gentle to yourself” is a great stress-buster for workers. She explains that we talk to ourselves all the time, even though “we’re not aware of it”. Changing our “self-talk” can shape our outlook and sense of self-worth so she urges us to change both with a bit of “positive chatter”. Stop reproaching yourself and try to emphasise your many strengths when thinking and talking to yourself.