Everyday billions of people around the world struggle with the pressures of stress placed on them whether it be in a work environment or in their private lives. April is widely recognised as Stress Awareness Month and has been since 1992. This year the theme is ‘Community’. At CPJ we are proud to help raise awareness in Mental Health issues.

Here alone in the UK just last year Stress (along with anxiety and depression) was one of the leading causes of staff absence with an average rate for time taken off due to Mental health at 18 days which was 3 times as high in comparison to time taken off for covid at 5 days due to a survey taken by Goodshape UK PLC workforce report 2021.

The aim of Stress Awareness month is to highlight and bring awareness to potential causes and provide helpful advice on ways to manage such loads stress can bring to us all.

HSE’s definition of work-related stress is defined as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them’. In itself stress is not an illness, as there is no medical diagnosis as there is no specific treatment. It is a natural human reaction, a feeling of emotional tension however if this reaction is prolonged over a period of time it can lead to physical and/or ill mental health.

If there are more than 5 employees within a workforce, you are required by law to undertake a stress risk assessment similar to the one shown here taken from the HSE website:

Taking a step back into history the term ‘stress’ as it is currently used in Health terms was coined by an Endocrinologist called Hans Selye in 1936. Hans defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”, in the years following this many people viewed stress as something unpleasant, so Selye created the new word ‘stressor’ to help distinguish good stress from bad stress. All humans experience different levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stress but stigmas around the topic in general have led people to associate the word stress in a negative light.

Stress is difficult to define because it is so different for each of us, a good way to explain this is by using the rollercoaster analogy. Observing passengers on a rollercoaster you will see some people hunched down, eyes shut with a tight grip whilst others will be wide eyed thrill seekers eagerly at the front yelling. What distinguishes the passengers in the front from the back is the sense of control they feel over the event.

As an industry we need to do more to help each other and employers have a legal duty to protect all employees from stress at work, many workers are still unwilling to talk about stress at work due to the stigma attached to it but stress is not a weakness and it can happen to anyone, in fact every single person on the planet experiences stress in their everyday lives but we all experience it at different levels, as stated previously some is good stress and some is bad stress and it’s how we cope and deal with it that matters.

There are many different ways to tackle stress, self-help strategies such as meditation, yoga and journaling, professional help such as visiting a GP and CBT therapies and even something as simple as owning a pet (obviously only if you are an animal lover pets are not for everyone)! A recent study has shown that by interacting with animals it actually lowered levels of cortisol (a stress related hormone) and lowers blood pressure as well as encourages exercise, provide social support all while offering company and unconditional love! Cats and dogs are the top companions for lowering stress levels and also help with anxiety, depression and tackling the big issue of loneliness. It’s a known fact pets don’t judge us – they just love us and are fantastic listeners. April is also annually known as National Pet Month.

Below we have put together a few tips on how to deal with work related stress:

1. Take care of yourself – A few minutes each day is enough to practise self-help techniques such as yoga, meditation, journaling, or mindful breathing. Try not to overstretch yourself or think just because you have done something over one or two days it will be an instant fix, these things happen over time.

2. Talk to others – After all a problem shared is a problem halved! It may not fix the issue, but you will feel a little better for sharing and sometimes not only can it help gain clarity on something stressing you but when you actually hear yourself say something out loud instead of manifesting in your thoughts it may not seem as bad after, also others may have solutions to help which you may not have thought of yet.

3. Exercise – Now no one is saying you should start training for a marathon however just simply going for a walk outside to take in some fresh air is a great way to start moving, exercise plays an important role in your wellbeing, health, and quality of life. Try utilising those short 5/10-minute breaks before or after lunch at work by getting a change of scenery, perspective, and fresh air!

4. Professional Help – Sometimes the hardest step to take is simply acknowledging you need help from someone else even if that is just advice. Visiting your GP or a trained therapist could get you started on the right path to a stress-free lifestyle.

5. Acceptance – Simply try to accept the things you cannot change. Its easier said than done but try not to stress over situations out of your control and instead try to look at the situation from a different angle, look at the things which you yourself can control and create a new plan of action for yourself. If it’s a situation at work for example a work meeting, make sure your fully prepared before hand and write down the things you want to discuss – there’s nothing worse than coming out that type of situation and dwelling on all the things you should have said but did not!

6. Organisation – Take notes, make lists! You know yourself better than anybody else and if you know you have a certain amount of jobs to complete in a day write it down so you don’t forget anything and if you don’t complete everything that’s ok to, just add it onto the next days list and prioritise the most important jobs first, you’ll be amazed at the sense of accomplishment you will feel at the end of that completed task list!

There are some fantastic charities around which have more information on ways to deal with stress as well as help with other mental health issues such as Mind and Rethink they also have crisis Helplines available; you can find them on the web. We all need to take care of our mental health and make sure support is available at work where needed to make a sustainable change for the future.

In support of Stress Awareness Month, CPJ will be posting four simple tips to help with stress if you are struggling – follow us on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram.

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