Stress is a common experience for many people in today’s world. It is felt everywhere; in our workplaces, in our relationships and in our wallets, but what if we could stop it where it starts? Our Founder, Beverley Le Cuirot was delighted to be invited by Anova to write their guest blog to highlight Stress Awareness Month.
April is Stress Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the importance of managing stress in our personal and professional lives. As with all aspects of health and wellbeing, prevention is better than cure, although given that stress is everywhere, we need to make sure we are proficient at managing our stress, whilst also doing everything we can to prevent it happening in the first place.
Stress in the Workplace
Recent research by Champion Health found that 76% of workers in the UK are currently experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. Year-on-year, this figure shows a percentage increase of 13%. The greatest cause of stress at work, by far and above all other causes, is excessive workload, followed by lack of control, lack of support and actions of managers. This is a worrying trend, as it not only impacts the wellbeing of employees but can also have a seriously negative impact on the productivity and profitability of a business.
It is clear that a new approach is needed and this involves a thorough examination of what and who is causing the problem. By adopting a root and branch approach it is possible to create an environment where people can flourish, and in turn, so will the business.
One of the first areas that needs to be examined is the work practices and policies that are in place. Are they realistic and achievable, or are they placing undue pressure on employees? Do they allow for a good work-life balance, or are they contributing to a culture of presenteeism and burnout? It is important to ensure that work practices and policies are designed with the wellbeing of employees in mind, and that they promote a healthy and sustainable work culture.
This involves the creation of psychological safety throughout the organisation with an open and transparent working environment where employees are encouraged and feel safe sharing their thoughts and concerns. It is also vital to provide training and support for managers to enable them to manage themselves and their teams effectively.
Another key factor to consider is the role of managers in contributing towards a stressful workplace environment. Research has shown that employees who feel that their manager is unsupportive or unresponsive to their needs are more likely to experience high levels of stress. Therefore, it is important for managers to take an active role in understanding how to support the wellbeing of their employees. This includes being approachable and available to employees, leading with compassion, and providing the appropriate support and resources to help them manage their workload and balance their work and personal life.
Businesses can also take other steps to promote employee wellbeing although it is important to recognise that tackling workplace stress is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different employees will have different needs and concerns, and therefore businesses need to be flexible and adaptable in their approach. This means taking the time to listen to employees and being open to feedback and suggestions for improvement. Finding out about the individual needs and motivations of all employees is vital.
Managing One’s Own Stress
At the same time, it is important to recognise that workplace stress is not solely the responsibility of the employer. Individual employees also have a role to play in managing their own stress levels. One of the first steps to managing stress is identifying the triggers. Self-awareness helps us navigate around people and situations that stress us the most. Keeping a stress diary is a useful tool to help with this.
Slowing down and taking things off the to-do list will also help, as will letting go of the things we cannot control, taking short breaks, especially between meetings, and trying to inject some fun into your work day to lighten the load. Laughter is a powerful way to lower the body’s stress hormones and boost endorphins to improve mood. Even thinking about laughing can start a chain reaction in the body that reduces stress hormones.
But what if other people cause our stress? One approach is to communicate effectively with caring candour with the individuals who are causing the stress. Try to express your concerns and ask for support. It is important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there is no shame in asking for support when needed.
Another technique that can immediately calm the nervous system during stressful times is 4-7-8 breathing. This technique is beneficial in situations such as meetings or difficult conversations. And practicing the pause and learning the art of responding, rather than reacting, will help maintain cordial and, one hopes, stress-free relationships with colleagues.
If we are to be able to prevent stress in the first place it is crucially important to set healthy boundaries and prioritise self-care. This means saying no when necessary, delegating tasks, maintaining healthy habits and making time for activities that bring joy and relaxation. It won’t necessarily make your worries disappear overnight but it will give you the strength, resilience and a clear mind to work out how best to handle the challenges you face, in a calm and decisive manner, every day.