“Oh, this is really stressing me out!”
We’ve all said it, but do we really know what it means?
More than 20% of us have called in sick because of workplace stress and less than half of UK employers feel they have the tools to improve staff wellbeing. Stress can be costly both to business and to our overall mental health.
That’s why every April we have Stress Awareness Month, which aims to increase public awareness of both the causes and potential answers to our stressful lives.
What is stress?
When we get stressed, our bodies think we’re under attack and it prepares us for action by engaging a fight, flight or freeze response. Useful when being chased by a sabretooth tiger – less so when you’re on deadline and have a meeting with your manager.
Different things trigger stress in different people and stress itself affects us in a baffling array of ways, including anxiety and irritability. Some people fight back with a short fuse, others bury their head in the sand and some even find themselves literally frozen in action, struggling to breathe and suffering panic attacks.
These natural strategies are less than ideal. So, what should we be doing to tackle stress?
Make some space
In general, taking time out – even for a few minutes – is a good idea. Giving yourself space to reflect, sleep, exercise and eat well, can all help to manage our cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Pressure, stress and mental health are inextricably linked and MIND (the mental health charity) encourages us to create ‘stress awareness spaces’ at work, where colleagues can share their thoughts and feelings. Here, at Words & Pictures HQ, we have our own, ‘How are you?’ wall where we add personal tips on how to decompress.
Throughout April, Mental First Aid England invites followers to tweet their Top 3 self care tips, and stress.org offers a corporate stress test to gauge what kind of pressure you’re under at work.
So, how do W&P colleagues unwind after busy days creating award-winning comms? The overwhelming answer here in Yorkshire involves physical activity, green space and fresh air – all proven stress-busters. We like to exercise together at lunchtimes, bike ride on a Friday night to reset for the weekend, take a brisk walk on the moors or by the sea, meditate, have a digital detox and dig the garden.
Now that British summertime is in full swing with longer, lighter days giving a luxurious illusion of extra time, make sure you prioritise your wellbeing today and start to address your stress…