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  • Leigh Kester

#1 Bringing Stress to the Workplace.

an actor at a desk with their head in hands looking at a computer screen feeling stressed

Broadly speaking stress is intensive worry or mental tension brought on by a challenging situation. It is important to emphasize that it is a natural reaction which can be connected to your personal life (friends/family), work environment or even big/small decisions.

“There is no such thing as a stress-free life. No evidence has ever been presented which suggests that a stress-free life can ever be achieved. Stress can be managed, relieved, and lessened, but never eliminated.” - Gudjon Bergmann

Every individual has different thresholds of stress and its triggers. have put together a comprehensive list of what may cause stress, some of which include; Bereavement, Pregnancy or infertility, organising a complicated event (holiday or wedding), being a carer, starting a new job, moving house and financial worries are some but not all which are included on this list. Some of the causes would usually be seen as a frivolous however they can still be stress inducing due to high or unusual demand.

Stress is a term that gets used quite often, however there are further depths to simply feeling stressed, in fact due to other emotions, bodily reactions as well as behaviour changes which can come with stress, it isn’t ‘simply feeling stressed’ at all. The Mental Health Foundation list examples of feelings, body and behaviour changes or reactions which could appear alongside stress.

an mind map with a cartoon person looking stressed surrounded by stressful situations and with the kind of feelings, behaviour and bodily reactions they get when stressed

Knowing the potential emotional, physical and behaviour changes which come alongside stress, will help us identify the signs of stress in our colleagues. Understanding that their change in behaviour or attitude, could be a reaction to a new or difficult challenge. For example, have you ever been in a meeting where someone is talking over you, rushing through the key points, not giving you the chance to ask questions? This could have the potential to impact your day and overall stress tolerance. If we explore empathy to the situation, we could realise this wasn’t a personal action against ‘me’, there could be something going on for that person which means their stress levels are high, patience is low and they really needed to get a move on. Understanding that this was a behavioural and/or emotion led reaction to their own stress, should help to lessen the impact to the us.

A colleague’s stress may not be work related but can equally impact their capacity for work, behaviour at work or even the motivation to work. If they are a carer or recently bereaved, they could feel the need to be ‘ok’, they often could be supporting other relatives or friends throughout this process but haven’t had the chance to acknowledge the stressful impact it has on their life. As a manager knowing your staff and having a connection with them will put you in a unique position to notice communication clues and recognising behavioural changes.

Having a psychological safe workplace is important, those who have experience stress due to a personal situation may often feel overwhelmed and alone in their experience. You may even be able to direct them to an Employee Assistance scheme or an individual outside of the team where they are able to speak freely without fears of work repercussions. There is a saying “A problem shared, is a problem halved”, this is as true for stress related issues as it is for a practical task. Talking helps individuals navigate our emotions, but potentially could open to solutions to the difficult or challenging situation.

Below shows some examples of how you could help a colleague with their stress. It is imperative that you are conscious of not trying to find a solution to ‘fix’ things and to be sensitive/empathise to how they may be feeling.

The NHS have produced a 10 step guide with tools on how to deal with stress. Understanding what it is we can do when we are stressed will help us feel less overwhelmed and out of control. Some easily accessible mechanisms for stress can be:

  • Exercise, the active movement can help relieve some of the emotional and behavioural burdens which come with stress, being able to clear you mind and add focus to an activity.

  • Utilising your support network, colleagues, friends and family speaking with them adds a new perspective, potentially help explore solutions and contributes to relieving stress.

  • Time management, prioritising and producing realistic achievable deadlines can help us focus and give us a feeling of satisfaction when the tasks are completed. If you’re unsure where to start, speak with your manager they may help alleviate some of the pressure and support you.

  • Most importantly take a status check, about how you’re feeling and take some ‘me-time’ to gather your thoughts and to relax.


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