As the UK returns to some semblance of normality we face a new set of challenges in our workplaces. Stress is one of these, with adjustment to new surroundings, ongoing health anxiety and business uncertainty all having a part to play. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have found themselves feeling so stressed in the past 12 months that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Finding ways to help people adjust back to working life and deal with the emotional challenges that arise is going to be essential.
How HR consultants should define stress
This is basically the way that we respond to pressure. Sometimes, it’s useful as stress can help us push through something hard in a way that we wouldn’t normally do, for example running a marathon. However, prolonged exposure to feeling stressed can mean that we’re permanently producing stress hormones and living in a state of fight or flight. This is very debilitating, especially as stress can produce many different symptoms from headaches, nausea and aches and pains to irritation, anxiety and depression. Long-term stress can be behind serious mental health problems and have a physical impact, for example causing immunity issues and heart disease.
Coping with stress in the workplace
The return to work could be stressful for many people but there are ways that we can all cope with this to make it more manageable.
Starting conversations about stress. Being open about stress and talking to colleagues and friends can make it feel less isolating and frightening. Sharing experiences brings us together and can help us all to find common solutions to manage stress.
Making health a priority. Stress can be caused by many things, including changes in circumstances and an increase in workload or the demands that are placed on us on a daily basis. Making individual health a priority is an essential way to combat this. Often, that means working out what is going to make a stressful environment feel more manageable, from eating healthily to taking regular breaks, exercising often and ensuring there is plenty of time to connect with important people. Downtime is also crucial – away from screens and social interaction and doing something that feels relaxing.
Tech breaks. We are constantly connected today via our devices and this can be a big contributing factor to feelings of stress. Taking regular tech breaks provides more opportunity to be present in the here and now and can help to stop obsessive patterns developing, for example reading news apps or making negative comparisons to others on social media who seem to be living their best lives.
Focusing on sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common problem during stressful times but not getting enough sleep can make a difficult situation worse – it’s a vicious cycle. So, it’s essential to find ways to ensure that the body is still getting the time it needs to rest and regenerate, whether that’s reducing caffeine intake or avoiding screen time in the evenings.
Shifting mindset. The way we talk to ourselves – our internal dialogue – influences the experience of life we have every day. If this is negative, harsh or cruel then it can make stressful situations feel impossible. Switching to a more positive mindset doesn’t mean ignoring challenges or hard feelings but being more productive about the way this is approached. Affirmations, meditation, therapy and more positive self talk can all help with this.
These are just some of the ways to approach stress management in the workplace. If you would like more support and guidance with employee wellbeing and HR consulting book a free call with our HR experts.