There are times when anyone might need some extra support, or understanding, to help them cope with the demands placed upon them.

Whether those increasing demands come from your workplace, or your personal life, many of us will go through periods when it is hard to cope. Such pressures can make it more difficult, or even impossible, to deal with both significant issues and even day-to-day matters.

Everyone experiences some sort of stress at work and some people thrive under a small amount of stress but others can become overwhelmed by work-related stress and it can affect our ability to function effectively at work.

There is no single cause of stress and the experience of stress is different for everyone. What is stressful for one person might not be for another – it depends on your personality and how you respond to situations. 

Typical triggers of stress

  • Lack of control over work
  • Excessive time pressures
  • Excessive or inflexible working hours
  • Too much or too little work or responsibility
  • Confusion about duties and responsibilities
  • Lack of job variety and interest
  • Inadequate training and possibilities for learning new skills
  • Poor work/life balance
  • Difficult relationships at work
  • Lack of support and lack of contact with colleagues
  • Organisational confusion, restructuring and job change
  • Uncertainty over job prospects 

Physical symptoms

  • Increased susceptibility to colds and other infections
  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension
  • Backache and neckache
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Digestive problems
  • Raised heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Lower sex drive
  • Skin rashes
  • Blurred vision 

Emotional and behavioural changes

  • Wanting to cry much of the time
  • Feeling that you can’t cope
  • Short temperedness at work and at home
  • Feeling that you’ve achieved nothing at the end of the day
  • Eating when you’re not hungry
  • Losing your appetite
  • Smoking and drinking to get you through the day
  • Inability to plan, concentrate and control work
  • Getting less work done
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or clients
  • Loss of motivation and commitment 

If you are experiencing stress at work then it is important to deal with it as soon as possible and identify which situations stress you most and how you cope with them.

  • Manage your time better by prioritising tasks, delegating and not taking on too much
  • Make time to relax at work by stretching and breathing deeply to keep you focused and stop muscles getting tired
  • Take a walk in your lunch break
  • Practise how you could behave differently in tricky situations, maybe you need to be more assertive or learn to ‘take a step back’ in tricky situations.
  • Ask for support and advice from your line manager – maybe to clarify your job role and responsibilities 

Turn to life out of work to remind yourself there’s more to life than the office - maybe take up a new hobby and meet new people.

Research shows that regular physical activity helps to reduce stress levels. As well as giving us ‘time out,’ it can trigger brain chemicals that improve mood.

Remember to take short breaks away from your computer, and even quick stretches can reduce tension.

Learning to relax can improve sleep and relieve stress-related physical pains such as stomach pains and headaches.

Try not to turn to alcohol, smoking and caffeine as these increase stress levels but eat regular healthy meals to give you energy. 

It may be that you feel able to talk through your problems with family, friends or colleagues, but sometimes it is more desirable, and appropriate, to seek professional help.

You can always visit your GP to ask for help and guidance. 

The council also provides, through Right Management, a counselling service which offers you a completely independent and confidential source of support. The helplines are open 24 hours a day, every day, so that you can always access the help you need, when you need it.

If you feel that counselling may be the option you need, please do not hesitate to contact the service by calling – free – on 0800 1116 387.

You can find out more about conditions such as stress by visiting the Mental Health Foundation website.

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