Stress brings a rush of energy, a pounding heart and a change in breathing to prepare us to respond to a particular situation.  It can be used for good in situations where you need to avoid potential danger or react quickly to an issue. The more challenging side to stress is when the body takes on a state of stress when it’s not necessarily needed or appropriate.  

When stress develops in you and you have an inability to think clearly or react appropriately then it can become a problem. If that level of enhanced stress continues for a long period of time, it can have detrimental effects on your health.  

Too much stress can bring agitation, panic and a noticeable change in personality. In the workplace, it can hinder your progress, alter your relationships with work colleagues and make you react differently from normal in order to cope with the stresses or pressures.  

Stress affects all aspects of a person’s world if it’s left to escalate. It impacts the cognitive functions, emotional feelings, there are physical side effects and it can change your behaviour drastically. 

Take a look around at your colleagues, can you spot recent changes in them which may display themselves as some of the below: 

Becoming forgetful 

Avoiding certain people or situations 

A negative mood or a regular fluctuation in mood 

The use of more negative or cynical language 

Becoming visibly withdrawn 

Loss of sense of humour 

Becoming irritable or short-tempered 

Being more argumentative 

Looking exhausted 

It’s so important to be able to identify overwhelming stress in yourself and in your colleagues. Prolonged heightened stress levels can be detrimental in so many ways and not dealing with it as soon as possible will allow it to escalate to a potentially unmanageable level. 

Taking rapid, firm and decisive action to avoid stress becoming un-manageable, is so important. 

Stress in the workplace is a serious issue for employers and can affect anyone. Reading around this subject, there are some alarming statistics which back up the mounting problem. Nearly 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress. Those days of absence cost the industry in the UK alone over 12 billion pounds each year.  

I think that feeling of being overwhelmed is familiar to many – and is more common than people feel comfortable in explaining. There are techniques that can be employed in order to spot the signs of impending stress and good ways to tackle it in order to minimise the impact. 

Possible ways to combat stress: 

Sleep should not be underestimated in its importance to your mental health. It is a vital part of the function of the body. Having a good sleep routine is important. 

Practising deep breathing before you go to bed is a good way to help you to fall asleep. Taking deep breaths in, holding it for a few seconds and then fully exhaling a few times helps to calm your body. Do look up breathing techniques and try them. 

There are excellent mindfulness apps which offer various settings / white noises to support a restful sleep or to listen to when you’re taking a break. They are well worth investigating. 

Music can be a hugely calming influence and takes you away from whatever it may be that is causing you to feel stressed or anxious. Again, this is down to personal taste, but I would recommend soothing music styles or a playlist which contains songs which are proven to improve your own mood. 

The art of saying ‘no’ is a tricky one to master but it’s necessary that you to learn ways in which to do this. Particularly if you are someone who tends to take on a lot of additional responsibilities or naturally wants to help others.  You do not ever need to feel guilty about prioritising your own work, your own needs and ultimately your own health and saying no to additional workload or tasks. 

If you are poorly, then rest! Encourage others to do the same. Trying to ‘battle on’ when you’re not well won’t support you to get better. Letting your body recover will help you to be in a stronger position to deal with potentially stressful situations. 

Any form of physical activity is good for your body and mind. It doesn’t need to be intense or competitive but anything, where you can raise your heart rate and close your mind for a short period of time, is helpful.  Having any kind of hobby outside of work is another good way to alleviate stress. 

Stress often displays itself at work when you feel that you are not coping with mounting daily tasks well. Or you feel you have conflicting responsibilities to manage without a clear idea of how to get them completed. A tip here is to build in buffers of time into your day. Instead of having meetings on the hour every hour or putting tasks in hour by hour – build in 30 minutes where you can to complete tasks which run over time. It can also be used to give you some breathing space to collect your thoughts before the next task. It also offers a period of time to deal with anything which comes your way that you weren’t expecting.  

Take regular short breaks – to support you being able to perform to the best of your ability. 

Arrange your day to mirror when you have the most energy – morning larks should front-load their important tasks in the day and if you have more energy in the afternoon then plan things of importance for when you know you’re at your peak. 

If you can identify with anything in this blog, do remember to talk to someone about it. And then keep talking about it. Similarly, if you have noticed a colleague displaying signs of increased stress – talk to them.