However, it's really important to understand when this ‘normal’ stress becomes abnormal, leading to burnout and mental health issues.
This National Stress Awareness Day, we want to help people to recognise the signs of symptoms of stress and learn practical techniques and strategies to manage stress and maintain a productive and healthy lifestyle.
What is stress?
Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them, and it’s symptoms often manifest as feeling irritable, unfocused, overwhelmed and anxious. In small, infrequent doses, stress can often lead to positive outcomes, releasing adrenaline to overcome challenges, for example hitting a deadline or public speaking.
However prolonged stress, without the release of endorphins upon completion of the challenge can lead to mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, a poor immune system, insomnia and digestive issues.
74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. - Mental Health Foundation
Here at HappyMaven, we focus on how workplace culture impacts employees wellbeing, happiness and productivity. When stress is added to the everyday workplace environment, it can have a devastating human and commercial effect on the business's output, employee retention and quality of service among many other important factors.
When a person can no longer perform due to excessive stress, this is called burnout.
Let’s talk about burnout
Burnout is defined by the World Health Organisation as
“a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
For the first time, work-related stress, anxiety or depression accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK.
To put burnout into context, if an athlete becomes injured and is unable to perform their sport, they will be expected to take time to recover and their recovery time is as crucial to their sport as their time in action. It is much harder to recognise burnout and facilitate the recovery process in the majority of workplaces.
Our own Chief Happiness Officer at HappyMaven, Suki K Bassi, experienced burnout first-hand, which impacted her career, finances, relationships and physical health. The HappyMaven concept was born from a desire to put chronic stress under the spotlight and to prevent other individuals from reaching crisis point.
Strategies for managing stress
We equip managers with simple strategies to prevent stressful situations and support those who are potentially experiencing stress in the workplace. Equally; being able to self-identify excessive stress and actioning some of these tactics for your own wellbeing is key for being able to also provide support for others.
Keep a journal to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. This will help you to plan and preempt for specific situations cause stress.
For example; if a meeting with a specific team is known to be particularly stressful; ensure that you feel well-prepared, have blocked time in your diary post-meeting to reflect and decompress and even prepare a cup of coffee in your favourite mug for the meeting.
In today's digital world, it's easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. If emails cause stress alarm bells (it does for me), turn off notifications on your phone and desktop, and block out time in your diary to tackle your inbox so that it doesn’t interfere with your wellbeing throughout the day.
Ask for help
Employees: Is your workload out of control? Finding a piece of work difficult to understand? Don’t agonise over it, the sooner you raise the issue, the sooner it can be resolved.
Managers: Check in with your teams and ask if they need help on any projects. Initiating this conversation may be the catalyst to improving your employees wellbeing.
Take a break
Employees: Feeling overwhelmed? Whether it’s a 15 minute walk or a week off work to rest and recuperate from a stressful spell, you’re entitled to holiday, so take it.
Managers: Encourage your teams to take their full allowance of breaks throughout the day and holiday entitlement. A refreshed and motivated team is better than a burnt out team that’s always in the office.
We understand that short-term stress is inevitable occasionally throughout your career. Ensure that you recognise the end-product of the stressful situation. For example, you’ve organised a client event - it was difficult, required long-hours and involved many stakeholders, but it was a success.
Take the time to reflect on your achievements and even treat yourself. You deserve it!
Adequate understanding of how stress manifests and how the symptoms affect employees wellbeing and capability, means that businesses can put preventative measures in place and tackle issues which exacerbate workplace stress.
To go further:
To find out more about how HappyMaven can support your business with stress awareness and management training and tools to enable a productive, happy and thriving workforce, please get in touch for a free consultation.