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How to manage stress in the workplace

Stress can affect us both mentally and physically. If left untreated, it can even be life-threatening, which is why it is so important to be able to recognise stress and look after yourself by managing these feelings.

So, what is stress and what can cause it?

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from an adverse or demanding circumstance”.

Stress is something that I am sure we’re all familiar with, it is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. In small doses, it can be useful and motivational. However, too much stress or prolonged exposure to stress can affect your wellbeing and eventually cause burnout.

Stress should never be seen as a weakness as everyone experiences stress differently, and we all have our own tolerance levels for stress. It is generally caused when we feel we don’t have the resources to handle the challenges we face. However, the thing with stress is that, generally, once the thing causing the stress is no longer a problem, the feeling of stress passes.

Stress isn’t always caused by negative events, but even positive life events can leave us feeling lost and out of control of the situation and therefore stressed.

Some examples of causes of stress are:

  • financial worries
  • your own illness or that of a friend or relative
  • upcoming social event
  • exams
  • having a baby
  • moving house
  • relationship difficulties
  • work pressures
    • Long hours
    • Heavy workload
    • Tight deadlines
    • Job insecurity
    • Insufficient skills for the job
    • Over-supervision
    • Inadequate working environment
    • Lack of proper resources
    • Few promotional opportunities
    • Harassment
    • Discrimination
    • Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses
    • Crisis incidents, such as an armed hold-up or workplace death.

How do I know I’m stressed?

Stress manifests itself differently for everyone, and the below graphic shows examples of how stress can show up. You may experience many of these symptoms or just a couple. You may not even realise you’re displaying some of these symptoms and only become aware when someone else mentions them.

What can I do about it?

If some of these symptoms sound pretty familiar to you, there are various ways to manage stress, both now and in the future. Managing stress is hard, and what works for you won’t necessarily be the same for someone else, but some good starting points are:

A healthy diet

  • Giving your body the right nutrients allows it to grow and repair itself and provides you with energy to keep you active throughout the day. As tempting as it is to reach for the caffeine and sugar fixes, or even alcohol and nicotine, these are only short-term fixes and will likely make you feel worse in the long term. Also, drink some water! – it’s a given, but a hydrated body is a happy body.

Get enough sleep

  • Did you know that the chemicals your brain releases during deep sleep are the same ones which tell your body to stop releasing the stress hormone? It seems pretty self-explanatory now that the better sleep you have, the less stressed you would feel.

Regular exercise

  • Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller and mood enhancer, the happy hormone. Plus, exercise can also improve your sleep – see above.

Relaxation techniques

  • Meditation, yoga, mindfulness and deep breathing can all help reduce stress. They make you aware of your body and your breathing, slowing it down, lowering your heart rate and, therefore, blood pressure, bringing your body back to a state of equilibrium.

Keep a journal

  • Take a moment to notice your feelings, to fully understand the things that cause you stress and how you handle it.

Say no to things you don’t want to do

  • Self-care isn’t selfish.

Take up a hobby

  • Make time to do something YOU want to do, for example, read a book, go for a walk, do some cooking or baking, listen to music, or catch up with friends.

Talk to someone

  • Probably the most important one, but the old saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, is absolutely true in this case. Talking to someone, a friend, family member, or colleague, just having someone to listen to you makes you feel less alone, and they might even have been through something similar and have some useful insights for you.

What if that doesn’t work?

A certain level of stress is normal. However, if none of these tips is working and you feel as though it is unmanageable, talk to your GP or another healthcare professional. They will be able to help.

How can I support my employees?

In 2020/21, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases.

Stress within your team, in general, may include increased staff turnover, decreased performance, increased sickness absence etc., so it is important to take a holistic view when looking for signs of stress. Being proactive and looking after the well-being of your team can improve performance, reduce sick days and presenteeism, improve colleague relationships and generally lead to a happier workforce.

Being able to recognise the signs of stress in your employees will allow you to act early and hopefully reduce the impact of the pressure they are feeling having a Wellbeing team within your business, made up of both mental health first aiders and wellbeing champions will enable you to provide support to your employees so that fewer people are reaching crisis point.

Mental Health First Aiders

Having Mental Health First Aiders within your business would provide an alternative outlet for your staff to express their issues to someone who may not be their direct line manager – this often puts staff at ease when discussing sensitive matters.

The 2-day course covers many mental health issues that may become apparent in the workplace. It focuses on how to deal with someone at a crisis point, how to communicate with them and then how to signpost them to local and national support agencies.

Wellbeing Champions

This 1-day course trains employees to be wellbeing advocates in the workplace. They gain the knowledge and practical tools to promote mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing whilst driving engagement.

To find out more information or discuss your training needs, talk to our Training Team by calling 01427 420 405 or email  or 


The information and any commentary contained within these updates are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or any other type of professional advice. Stallard Kane does not accept and, to the extent permitted by law, exclude liability to any person for any loss which may arise from relying upon or otherwise using the information contained in these blogs. If you have a particular query or issue, you are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice about your issue and not to rely solely on the information or comments in these updates.
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