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How Can I Reduce Stress At Work?

Here are some tips on how to reduce stress at work, however if you'd like to implement a stress a management programme for your organization, please contact us on 0845 355 1159.

What's the cost of stress at work?

According to the Health & Safety Executive, 1.6 billion work days are lost in the UK annually through stress. Obviously the costs to UK employers are considerable in terms of lost productivity and in office cultures where stress is prevalent, there can be a considerable effect on morale in the workplace. Further considerations for employers are the costs associated with high staff turnover. Leaving aside the cost to employers, the human costs for those actually suffering from stress can ultimately be life threatening. Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between stress levels and killer diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other symptoms from stress can include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), skin problems, hair loss, depression and loss of self esteem.

Can you prevent stress?

The answer is Yes!

The great shame about the problems caused by stress is that they can mostly be prevented. The responsibility for prevention lies with both the employee and employer and awareness campaigns from various bodies (e.g. HSE) are starting to have some effect in this regard. Also culture change initiatives which are undertaken by senior management in some companies can have a dramatic impact on reducing stressful work environments. Such initiatives will not yield results overnight and require considerable long term commitment from all involved. For individuals, we have listed some useful suggestions below that will help you with stress. For more information go to our executive coaching page for one to one help

How do I know if I am stressed?

Stress is the body's way of indicating unhappiness with a particular situation that the individual may be involved in (e.g work, relationships, money). The thing that is often misunderstood about stress is that the sources of stress and the manifestation of stress may not be very obvious. For stress to occur it need not necessarily be a case of work overload. Not having enough work or not feeling that one is making a contribution can be equally stressful. Early signs of stress can include poor sleep, changes in appetite and body weight, tight neck and shoulders, irritability, skin problems, dry scalp or social withdrawal.

Tips on reducing stress

From our experience of working with employees (senior executives and junior staff) who are suffering from stress at work we would recommend the following approach:

1. Accept that you are stressed - denial of the stress will only worsen the symptoms. It is important to be honest with yourself that you are in a situation that needs to change.

2. Know what is causing the stress - this is not as easy as it sounds but good coaching can usually get to the heart of the matter fairly quickly. In the absence of coaching it might be useful to:

a. Take some time alone with your eyes closed and 'connect' mentally with the stress symptoms. If you have a pain in your shoulders, have a talk with the pain and ask it what it may be bringing your attention to. Often the part of the body that is hurting will give some clue as to the reason. Shoulders can indicate that you are carrying too much load, backache can indicate a lack of support from those around you, heart pains can be a clue that you have no passion for what you are doing.

b. Identify 'when' you get stressed - is it on Sunday evenings when you think about another week in a job you don't love, is it before a certain work activity e.g. presenting at a monthly meeting, or is it in the company of a certain colleague or boss (more on relationships in Part II)

c. Talk it over with a good friend who gives you space to think

3. Get clear on how you would like things to be.Instead of dwelling on the problem, ask yourself 'How would I ideally like to be feeling?'. Or 'What is my ideal desired outcome here?'. Too often we get stuck thinking about a problem without considering an alternative.

4. Identify what needs to happen to change the cause of the stress. It is important not to place too much emphasis on reducing the symptoms without acknowledging the underlying causes. For example, taking frequent holidays to de-stress can be useful but ultimately counterproductive if you are simply in the wrong job. Changing the cause might include looking for a more suitable job. Other examples of changing the cause might include arranging for some of your work to be delegated to others. It could also include improving your organisation skills so that things don't get so out of control.

5. Set an action plan in place for what you will definitely do to resolve the situation.Without actions you are placing your destiny and possibly your demise, in the hands of others. Don't blame others for your problem but instead take responsibility to make the situation different. You will be surprised at how much better you will feel by simply knowing that you are taking steps to alleviate the problem.

6. Spend more time doing the things that energise you. It is easy to overlook your hobbies, friends and interests when you are feeling stressed. This might also include exercising. As mentioned above, this should be done alongside your steps for addressing the cause of the stress.

Remember, getting straight to the cause of your stress is the key to alleviating stress properly. This requires courage but ultimately you will be glad that you did. If you require any help with your own situation or that of a colleague, please contact Inspiring Potential at 0845 355 1159

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