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Managing Stress in the Workplace

Key figures for Great Britain in 2022/23 show that 1.8 million working people are suffering from work-related illnesses, out of which 875,000 workers are experiencing work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. These mental health issues account for 50% of all work-related illnesses. Taking proactive steps to look after your wellbeing and that of your team can lead to improved performance, reduced sick days and presenteeism, better colleague relationships, and a generally happier workforce.

What exactly is stress?

‌Stress is defined as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from an adverse or demanding circumstance’ and is the body’s natural 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. Importantly, it should never be seen as a weakness; everybody experiences stress differently, and has their own tolerance level.

What causes stress?

‌Stress is generally caused when we feel we don’t have the resources to handle the challenges in front of us; this means that even positive life events can be stressful, leaving us feeling lost and out of control. The good news is that once the situation passes, so do the feelings of stress. Typical causes of stress include:

  • Health issues (or those of a friend or relative)
  • Getting married, or divorced
  • Having a baby
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Moving house
  • Financial worries
  • Exams or tests

What about workplace stress?

Stress within your team may lead to increased staff turnover, decreased performance, increased sickness or absence and poor performance. Common workplace stressors include:

  • Long hours
  • Heavy workload
  • Tight deadlines
  • Job insecurity
  • Over-supervision
  • Inadequate working environment
  • Insufficient skills for the job
  • Lack of resources
  • Poor relationships with colleagues and/or management
  • Harassment or discrimination
  • Lack of career advancement opportunities
  • Crisis incidents

What are the main signs of stress?

Stress affects people in different ways; this graphic gives some examples of how it may show itself. You may experience many of these symptoms, or just a couple; remember, it might even take someone else commenting on them for you to realise you are displaying them at all.

That sounds familiar. How can I manage my stress levels?

‌Every person is an individual and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; however, these are good starting points:

  • Eat a healthy diet

Giving your body the right nutrients allows it to function properly and repair itself as well as providing you with fuel for your day. Chasing a sugar or caffeine high may provide a temporary boost but is always followed by a corresponding low, and can build unhelpful habits; similarly, alcohol and nicotine are toxins for your body, giving it more to deal with. One simple improvement is to drink more water - a hydrated body is a happy body.

  • Get more sleep

Did you know that the chemicals your brain releases during sleep are the same ones which prevent it releasing the stress hormone? The better your sleep quality, the less you will feel affected by stress.

  • Exercise regularly

Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancer; it can also improve your sleep (see above).

  • Try some relaxation techniques

Meditation, yoga, deep breathing and mindfulness can all reduce stress, bringing your attention to your body, slowing your breathing and lowering your heart rate.

  • Keep a journal

When you next feel stressed, take a moment to notice what caused it, how you tend to respond and what you could do to handle it.

  • Develop a good work-life balance

Prioritise time to do things you enjoy: read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, catch up with friends. Learn to feel comfortable saying no to things you don’t want to do; self-care isn’t being selfish.‌

  • Talk to someone     

One of the simplest but most effective things you can do is talk about it; the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is absolutely true in this case. Talking to someone - a friend, family member or a colleague - reinforces the fact that you are not alone and also helps you make sense of your feelings as you explain them. Also, they might have been through something similar and have useful advice or insights for you.

  • Don’t ignore it

While life is usually stressful to some extent and at certain times, if you feel it is becoming unmanageable then talk to your GP or another healthcare professional.‌

How can I support my employees?

Stress within your team may lead to increased staff turnover, decreased performance and increased absences. Being able to recognise the signs of stress in your employees will allow you to act promptly; having a trained 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 reach 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 two-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 how to signpost them to local and national support agencies.

Wellbeing Champions

This one-day course trains employees to be workplace wellbeing advocates. Participants gain the knowledge and practical tools to promote mental, physical, social, and financial wellbeing while driving engagement.

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


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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