Right now, it’s International Stress Awareness Week! Yes, we all say we’re stressed from time to time, but do we really appreciate what that can mean for our personal and professional lives? Do we recognise truly what makes us stressed? And more importantly, do we understand how to eliminate it for the good of our health and happiness?

Stress Awareness Week is all about putting health, happiness and wellbeing into the heart of business. But what does stress awareness mean to you, as an employee?

Causes:

Stress can come from various aspects of our lives but quite often, it actually comes from a number of places at one time and things get overwhelming. It can become an unhealthy state of body and mind and understanding the triggers which cause stress is the first step to eliminating it.

According to ISMA, 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/2019. Fast forward to 2020 and all the challenges we’ve all had to face this year with workplace changes, working from home, furlough and more, this is set to increase. Struggling to cope with the workload and a lack of support rank high in the reasons for workplace stress. 

Stress doesn’t always come from work, though. Maybe you’re moving house, maybe you’ve recently had a baby and you’re struggling with a lack of sleep, maybe you have financial concerns or health worries. All of these are natural, normal and understandable concerns for anyone to have in 2020, and realising where your stress is coming from, helps you to digest what needs to be done.

Effects:

We often think of stress as being a mental health issue, but it may be surprising to learn that stress can also have a huge effect on our physical health too! Here’s some examples of how stress affects your body…

Physical effects:

  • Aches, pains and muscle tension
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Menstrual changes or loss of libido
  • High blood pressure

Emotional and Psychological effects:

  • Tearful
  • Mood swings
  • Angry and frustrated
  • Lack of confidence or self esteem
  • Memory lapses
  • Easily distracted
  • Undue worrying
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia

You may experience one of these effects, or many of the above. However, if you notice any of these signs and feel you know the cause, there is action you can take. And taking action right now will have a positive effect on your physical and mental health for both your personal and your professional life. If you can take action, you’ll be able to perform better and work more efficiently in your job AND you’ll enjoy your down time and be able to relax even more.

Action:

It can sometimes be difficult to admit you’re struggling to cope and you may fear it show weakness. However, let’s be clear, it really isn’t! Admitting you need help, reaching out and being honest shows true strength in your ability to perform well. The more transparent you can be about how you’re doing, the more those around you can help.

  • Take time for you. Commit to spending even just a few minutes a day to yourself. Whether that’s meditating, yoga, reading, walking or anything else that lets you switch off is great. No technology! Move away from your computer and your phone and be present in the moment, breathe and focus on how you feel right now.
  • Talk to loved ones. Yes, talk, talk, talk! This is sometimes the most difficult but is easily the most effective action to take when you’re suffering with stress. Tell those closest to you how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way and open discussions as to what you think may help. Even just having that conversation can be a great relief.
  • Talk to your employer. It’s difficult for an employer to take action to help your work situation if you don’t tell them. If you’re good at getting the job done they may not even realise the stress you’re under. Request a meeting, grab a coffee and explain how you’re feeling. There are so many brilliant resources and solutions an employer can offer to help you out. After all, they want a happy, healthy workforce to keep business moving, so it’s for the good of everyone!
  • List your actions: Making a physical list is always a great way to tidy your mind. List your concerns. List your causes and then make notes of ideal ways you can reduce those causes. You may not be able to tackle everything in one go, but just focusing on one area at a time will begin to make a real difference.

It’s quite common for us to just accept that stress is part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can take small steps to reduce our stress, it can lead to a much more fulfilling, healthy, happy life.

Learn more about how Acorn can help you and your colleagues with our Stress Awareness Courses, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service, Management Referral support (telephone, face to face or video), Mental Health Triages and more, on our website now.