Employees’ Factsheet: Stress
Employees’ Factsheet: Understanding stress
There are many myths about stress, e.g.:
• stress is a sign that someone is weak and unable to cope
• stress and pressure are the same thing
• Stress is an illness.
“None of these are true.”
Stress is something which we will all experience at different times in our lives. It will occur when we perceive that we are experiencing levels of pressure that we find difficult to cope with (i.e. either too much or too little pressure). Stress mismanaged, can cause both mental and physical illness.
Some common causes of stress
• Serious illness of a loved one.
• Moving house.
• Excessive workload.
• Financial worries.
• Home/work conflicts.
• Relationship problems.
• Being bullied or harassed.
Some common effects of stress
• High levels of anxiety.
• Low self-esteem.
• Inability to concentrate
• Being more prone to accidents.
• Panic attacks.
• Chest pains.
• Stomach problems.
• Relationship problems.
Proven coping strategies for managing stress
- Turning to food, alcohol or nicotine does not work, and might worsen the situation. Try some of the coping strategies below instead.
- Learn to recognise your own early warning signs — you might, for example, find yourself becoming very anxious, irritable or tearful.
- Work out what is really causing you stress. It is all too easy to blame one source. In reality stress usually comes from a variety of sources, one of which might even be you. Do you ever question the expectations you have of yourself and others? Review what action you could take to reduce or eliminate the things that are causing you stress.
- Make time for a short period of relaxation every day. Do something which you enjoy and which fits into your life. This does not need to be difficult or time-consuming. We all need to turn off from time to time and it really will pay dividends.
- Do not give up on exercise or feel it is a waste of time. Make sure you make time for moderate exercise each day. It will make you feel fitter and far more in control.
- Eating and drinking sensibly can really help.
- Manage your time effectively. Cut out time wasting and establish priorities.
- Learn to say “no”. It is easy to find yourself with too much to do because you take on too much. If you have difficulties saying no, enrol on an assertiveness course or read one of the many books on the subject.
- If you feel you have insufficient challenges in your life, set yourself some new goals — ones that are realistic and achievable.
- It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Other people can often be very helpful and give practical and useful advice. If you need help, turn to someone you trust or contact one of the national helplines. Your own GP can also be supportive at these times.
Do’s and Don’ts Checklist for Managing Stress
- Take a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to workplace stress.
- Be prepared to take appropriate steps to reduce the level of stress to which an employee is exposed whenever it is established that the individual might be vulnerable to stress-related illness.
- Treat stress like any other health hazard and carry out full risk assessments.
- Carry out “return to work interviews” after every period of sickness absence as such interviews can provide an important opportunity to find out if the sickness was caused by problems at work and, if so, what can be done to ensure that the problem does not happen again.
- Adopt an open and understanding attitude to what employees say about the pressures of their work.
- Regularly review the volume of work each employee is expected to achieve in order to assess whether it is fair, reasonable and realistic.
- Encourage employees to raise any problems they may have related to workplace stress, while making sure that everyone knows they can do so without fear of recrimination.
- Make and communicate a strong management commitment to the elimination of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
- Make sure an employee who is returning to work after a stress-related absence is not exposed to the same factors that originally caused the stress, nor overloaded with work initially.
- Assume that no one is experiencing stress at work just because there have been no formal complaints.
- Ignore the warning signs if an employee appears to be experiencing stress at work.
- Assume that an employee who admits to workplace stress is weaker than other employees.
- Demand or expect employees to work overlong hours, no matter how much work needs to be done.
- Promote or transfer an employee to a new post before he or she has received the necessary training.
- Tolerate any incidence of bullying or harassment, however minor it may appear.
- Expect too much of an individual initially after a return to work following a period of absence from work on account of a stress-related illness.