National Stress Awareness Day

National Stress Awareness Day provides an opportunity to increase public awareness and help people recognise, manage and reduce stress in their personal and professional lives. 

This blog has been written by Olivia Carson, Public Affairs Officer at the CIPD in Scotland, jointly with Andy Milne, Head of The Better Health Generation.

Stress is often described as a feeling of being overwhelmed, wound up, tight, tense, and worried. We all experience stress at some point in our lives and we all have many different reactions to stress. Some stress can be good for us and help us get motivated to do an activity or task. A little bit of stress can motivate you and can focus your mind on the task. However, it can also be unhelpful, and too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed; harming our health and can stop us from getting on with our lives. 

We know that mental health issues and stress in UK workplaces, and days lost as a result, are key issues for employers. Mental ill health is increasing, causing both short- and long-term absence, and this will come as no surprise as we know that the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the mental health of many of us. 

Findings from our most recent Working Lives Scotland report show that 21% of employees feel under excessive pressure, 26% of employees believe that their work impacts negatively or very negatively on their mental health, and this rises to 32% for those who work from home all of the time. 

At the moment, the world is uncertain and we’re all living through a time which is incredibly difficult. In Scotland alone, employees are beginning yet another ‘new’ way of working in the form of hybrid, navigating changes to Covid rules around vaccines and vaccine passports as well as the COP26 conference which takes place in Glasgow over the next two weeks, meaning thousands of delegates from across the world coming to Glasgow to discuss the impact of climate change. And while the topic is incredibly important, many employees will be having to make alternative plans to get to work. 

Employers have a critical responsibility to mitigate stress levels in workforces – this applies to all staff but especially those working from home. Our stress factsheet defines stress and draws the distinction between stress and pressure. It offers information on what UK employers’ duties are under health and safety law and provides guidance on how to deal with stress at work. 

Research suggests that good stress management includes building emotional strength, being in control of your situation, having a good social network and adopting a positive outlook. Here, Andy Milne, Head of The Better Health Generation, provides some stress busting tips: 

  • Be Active: If you have a stress-related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution 
  • Take Control: There’s a solution to any problem. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else 
  • Connect With People: A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way 
  • Have ‘Me Time’: The UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe. The extra hours in the workplace mean that people aren’t spending enough time doing things that they really enjoy 
  • Challenge Yourself: Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress 
  • Avoid Unhealthy Habits: Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones 
  • Work Smarter, Not Harder: Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long-hours culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. Working smarter means prioritising your work and concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day 
  • Be Positive: Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well or for which you’re grateful 
  • Accept Things You Can’t Change: Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over. 

The Better Health Generation deliver the Able Futures initiative in Scotland. Able Futures is a nationwide specialist partnership set up to provide the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Through The Better Health Generation and Able Futures employees and apprentices can access a mental health professional for up to nine months personalised advice and guidance to help their mental health. The Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants (VRCs) can help staff you understand and use a wide variety of tools and techniques which can support their journey to better mental health. There is no cost to use this service which is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. 

You can find more information on Able Futures and The Better Health Generation on their websites. For more information on how The Better Health Generation can support your staff through this programme you can contact them on info@betterhealthgen.co.uk or +44(0)7809 645615.

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