Managing stress in these tough times
Since the downturn in the economy over the past few months, I have become increasingly more aware of the negative impact stress can have on individuals, companies and employees. Business owners need to ensure that they have adequate measures in place to identify, reduce and manage the problems associated with stress. But how many companies take a proactive stance towards stress prevention?
With 1 in 6 workers suffering with stress and those same people under-performing at work by over 30%, it’s no wonder that at some stage we succumb to one of the many health problems associated with stress. The latest figures suggest that in the UK alone, we lose 12.5 million days a year to stress, which is the equivalent of each stress sufferer taking an average of 30 days sick leave per annum.
The identification of what causes us stress, both at work and on a personal basis, can often be difficult without specialised help. Companies may not realise what the contributory factors are and why certain symptoms have manifested themselves in staff members. Problems are often associated with work related stress where there can be many different reasons why people feel stressed and under pressure. The top reasons for workplace stress that we observe are high workload demands, working long hours, unachievable deadlines and taking work home.
The more typical symptoms of stress to be aware of include frequent headaches, anxiety or panic attacks, lack of self-esteem or confidence, mood swings and fatigue. Also, not being able to maintain a decent sleeping pattern can also indicate that you may have too much to cope with. Be aware of any general trends that are emerging on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and try to understand what has been causing these problems.
Once you have successfully identified the causes, you can begin to implement suitable solutions on a gradual basis, but don’t try to fix all the problems at once as this will only put you under more pressure. Remember to get expert advice if the problems cannot be solved by you alone. Be proactive towards stress.
Taking a proactive stance towards reducing stress in the workplace and introducing positive techniques such as stress management workshops or coaching can be the key to helping the overall wellbeing factor. By adopting this policy, companies will almost certainly notice changes such as reduced absenteeism, higher staff morale, improved staff retention and increased productivity. With all of these points being considered, businesses should save money in the longer term, which in this economic climate has to be good news.
At an individual level, starting to understand what causes you stress should be the first step. Stress can be caused by a one-off situation or can also be the result of several stressful circumstances that may occur over a period of time. The saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” has never been so true in many people’s lives.
When it comes to managing your own stress, the best recommendation is to keep a Stress Diary to record those difficult times. This will help you to detect any particular patterns that may emerge and in turn, the identification of problems will be easier and you can then begin work on the major issues, one at a time.
To keep a Stress Diary, simply write down each stressful event over the next 14 days in a diary format with a brief explanation of what caused your stress levels to rise. Then, score the event on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest. If you notice any patterns emerging, it’s time to take a deeper look into what is causing the problems. Don’t try to fix all the problems at once, deal with them in bite size chunks and get some qualified help with solving the issues.
Other elements that have an impact on your stress and wellbeing include your diet and nutrition. It is always worth reviewing what you eat and drink to ensure that your body is getting the right balance and that you also have an exercise plan. And remember to take a regular break from your work to get some fresh air during the day as this will help re-focus you for the remainder of the day.
Finally, never allow problems to build up until you cannot cope. Cases of stress related illness are on the increase and if identified early enough, a lot of these would result in less time spent away from work and more time feeling fitter and healthier.