National Stress Awareness Month: Causes and symptoms of stress
19 April, 2021
Author: Jennifer Spencer
In support of Stress Awareness Month, Pick Everard HR Advisor, Tomi Aluko, looks at the causes and symptoms of stress and provides some valuable coping mechanisms on how to manage its effects.
What is stress?
People Management’s biggest ever study of HR and L&D professionals, which polled 641 individuals in depth about their working lives, aspirations and personal background, found that 37 per cent felt ‘extremely stressed or overwhelmed’ because of work at least four times a month. A further 50 per cent said they were overwhelmed at least once a month.
Stress is a common thing that many people experience during their lifetime, it is the body’s reaction to feeling under pressure or a level of threat.
Stress is often compared to an illustration of cups and glasses having different capacities. Similarly, our internal capacity to handle life challenges and demands vary from person to person; it is unique to each of us and should also be acknowledged as such.
Symptoms of Stress:
- Continued feeling of sadness.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Consistent interruptions to sleep or an inability to sleep.
- Constant fear of the unknown.
- Irritability/regular burst of anger.
- Easy loss of focus at home or work.
- Loss of interest in the things that would usually excite one.
- Breaking contact with family or friends.
Managing stress/keeping it under control: Whilst stress can have motivating benefits, as it could help us build up momentum to achieve our goals, if not properly managed, stress can cause illness to the body, therefore it is important to manage stress at early stages and educate oneself on sustainable stress management methods.
Recovery rate: Do not dwell upon a stressful situation; there is something that is referred to as recovery rate/period – the quicker you recover the better and the more resilient you are to future similar occurrences.
Support systems: Not only does social support help people feel less stressed, but it can also actually improve your health. During the corona virus pandemic, it is understandable that physical meetings may be reduced, try, but meet family and friends virtually if you can.
Avoiding unhealthy habits: According to drinkaware.com, “alcohol disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals and processes in your brain, affecting your thoughts, feelings and actions – and sometimes your long-term mental health. Even though you might think a drink can help you relax, in fact over time, regularly drinking to deal with feelings of stress can interfere with what your brain needs for good mental health as well as disrupt our sleep, making stress harder to deal with.”
Instead eat healthy foods such as eggs, dark chocolate, yogurt and citrus fruits which are all believed to help ease stress.
Organise your work: Prioritise your work, so that your complete tasks in order of urgent and important, create a to do list which you can check off once tasks are completed and reward yourself when you have completed a good task.
Sacred time: Every week it is important to plan to have breaks, this should include lunch breaks as well as time outside of work, where you can relax and do the things that make you happy and feel relaxed.
Exercise: Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. “When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that fight stress,” says Frank Lupin, MS, ATC, PES, a certified athletic trainer. This can range from yoga to high energy exercise.
Sleep: Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you are well rested.
Managing Stress as a HR Advisor
As a HR Advisor, my day-to-day involves dealing with a range of employee relation issues, from managing performance issues to supporting employees who may have or currently be experiencing stress themselves.
If not properly managed, this can be overwhelming, so I have managed to put certain things in place to ensure a healthy and well-rounded working life.
This includes taking breaks during the day to break up my work, writing about my day in a journal, reflecting on any issues and putting together a plan to improve my approach in the future if necessary, treating myself to snacks during the day, ensuring I get good rest and identifying when I need to use some annual leave, even if it is just one day.
These steps, although small, have helped me to shape my working pattern, manage my emotions and keep stress levels to a minimum. I have also found that colleagues that I have shared these practices with have also found them helpful.
For further support with stress:
The Stress Management Society provides information, advice on stress management and workshops
www.getselfhelp.co.uk – Provides information and resources relating to stress.
www.nhs.uk – Get help with stress