Whilst stress is commonly interchanged with the word ‘pressure’, it is, in fact, a totally different thing. Stress is the feeling one suffers when they feel out of control of their life or circumstances. Stress can cause a multitude of physiological or emotional problems, all of which impact productivity and well-being. Stress may be associated with a mental state but managing stress is a skill set that individuals should work on in order to achieve a good healthy work-life balance.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress has a wide variety of symptoms, but these can all be broadly categorised into four different groups:
- Emotional symptoms: perhaps the most commonly thought of, the emotional symptoms of stress can consist of becoming withdrawn, having an increase in negativity, loss of confidence, and increased irritability.
- Physical symptoms: possibly the most varied group, common symptoms can be frequent colds (due to a taxed immune system), insomnia, a rapid heartbeat, headaches, an upset stomach, or generally low energy.
- Behavioural symptoms: a group of symptoms that are easy to identify in people you are familiar with, these can include a sudden increase in drinking or smoking, altered eating habits, attendance changes (such as suddenly taking frequent sick days), or mood swings.
- Mental symptoms: particularly debilitating results of stress, these can include an inability to concentrate, confusion, and indecision.
Not everyone who is stressed will experience all of these symptoms, and some may have others that aren’t listed. It is also possible to suffer from multiple or even most of these symptoms at the same time, which leads to a serious inability to live an ordinary life, in turn creating more stress than fulfilling an unending cycle. This is why having effective stress management systems in place at work or in your own home is vitally important.
Managing Stress in the Workplace:
The correct way to manage stress at work depends entirely on whether you are an employer or employee, simply because the former has more power to help a wider range of people than the latter.
As an employee, the best things to do to reduce stress are things that are on a personal, individual level. Typically, people may try to work harder, and throw themselves into the tasks piling up for them. This is detrimental. You should instead try to work smarter, identifying which tasks have a higher priority. Leaving easier tasks to the end of the day, or those which you can complete quickly allows more time to focus and deal with the things you need to take your time with.
Battling your own stress can take the form of helping others manage theirs. Research has suggested that altruism helps one become more resilient mentally to stressful circumstances. Doing little things every day, like doing the coffee run or picking up the files your colleague dropped can overtime make everyone feel a little better at work.
As an employer, you have the ability to implement strategies for the whole workplace to help manage stress. Being empathetic to the needs and worries of your employees costs little and can have a great impact, simply because they know you are listening. The things causing stress might be out-of-date policies, or an overabundance of workplace-made regulations; reviewing these and reducing them wherever possible can alleviate unnecessary stresses and challenges that impact performance.
Reviewing work arrangements, to see if you can offer flexible work hours, for example, can allow employees to better balance their work life with their home life, which produces overall better mental well-being. Finally, implementing whatever kinds of wellness programs you can afford will make the workplace a better experience for your employers. Can you offer subsidised gym memberships, or treat employees to corporate spa days? If you can, you should.
Managing stress at Home
A person’s home should be their safe space; it is the place that you should be fully in control of, where you needn’t fear the wider world. But, of course, this is frequently not the case. Wherever more than one person co-exists together, there will likely be conflict or friction that can result in stress, or perhaps increase it after a difficult work day.
The simplest way to help deal with stress in the home is to have a space dedicated to ‘me time’. Ideally, this would be the whole home, but if this isn’t possible you should set aside a particular area for this purpose, that you will associate solely with relaxation. For example, you could make a rule in your house that no arguments can be allowed in the garden; the garden would then become a space you could retreat to get away from difficulties.
Following this theme, it is quite common nowadays for people to work from home. Having an office at home can be psychologically detrimental, in that if you spend time doing work at home your mind will not distinguish between the place where you relax and unwind (home) and the place of high activity (your workplace).
Wherever possible, you should try and only do work at work, but otherwise, you should limit the amount of time you spend at home doing work. The same can be applied to children. Whilst homework is expected to be done at home, you should try and encourage them to do it somewhere else (e.g. by staying at school later and doing it there, or going to a public library). If they must do it at home, then set aside a particular space to do it. This should never be in the bedroom; having proper partitions between the areas of the home you work and where you play is one of the best ways to deal with stress in the home.
Try and do things together in the home too. Socialising is one of the best ways to alleviate stress, since you can either talk your problems through with somebody or otherwise do things that help you forget your problems, thereby refreshing the mind.
Furthermore, taking the opportunity to exercise -even something as simple as going for a run or kicking a ball around with your children- helps manage stress. You will quickly find that by doing this, you will find yourself able to better cope with your problems and have the resilience to deal with them.
Finally, as counterintuitive as it may sound, letting go and accepting that sometimes you aren’t in control liberates you from stress. In your private life, you may have conflicts because of extended family or certain friends. You don’t control how anyone else behaves, so accepting that they act however they do and not taking it upon yourself to force them to change is the best thing you can do.
At TutorCare we take mental health seriously. Our courses aim to highlight issues such as work-related stress through courses such as our Stress Awareness training Course. In the course, you will find techniques and valuable insights into what stress is and how managing stress can help create efficiency in the workplace.
If you like our course, why not look at our mental health e-learning course that looks at the stigmas associated with mental health that offers a digital certificate upon completion.
Further reading on managing stress:
The NHS website offers tips on how to manage stress, providing further information through subsequent links: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/
The mental health charity Mind provides a plethora of advice and guidance on managing stress: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/workplace-mental-health/work-and-stress/#.W1cU0LgnZhE
Free “Managing Stress in Health Care Jobs” PDF