Mental Health Awareness Week: Stress in the workplace - how you can reduce it

45% of workers in the East Midlands have thought about leaving their job because of stress Credit: PA

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week - and this year's theme centres around stress in the workplace. It's estimated stress and mental health problems cost the UK economy nearly £100billion a year.

A survey by Investors in People found:

  • 82% of workers in the East Midlands have experienced stress at work

  • 77% of workers in the West Midlands have experienced stress at work

  • 45% of people in the East Midlands have considered leaving their job because of stress at work - the highest in the country

  • While in the West Midlands, that figure is 33%

  • But, the East Midlands also has 41% of workers saying their mental health is supported by their employer - again the highest in the country

Renee Clarke, an expert from Mindful Workplace Wellbeing, says stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.

She says not all pressures are bad - a little pressure can lead to increased productivity, improved performance and increased motivation. But excessive and prolonged pressure can lead to stress.

Renee has shared some useful tips on coping mechanisms for stress:

  • Recognise what causes your stress and take control

Unless you know what causes your stress you will never break the cycle and will continue to place unnecessary pressure on yourself. Try making a diary for a week, noting date, time, location, situation and people that make you feel irritated/stressed. Look for any patterns, then come up with an action plan to address the triggers.

  • Make time to relax

Relaxation is the perfect antidote for reducing stress. Popular relaxation methods include yoga, meditation, massage, listening to music, reading a book, taking a hot bath. Deep breathing also releases tension from the mind and body and will help to reduce stress levels.

  • Manage your time

Do you waste time worrying about not having enough time? Could you work smarter (not harder) and make more time for yourself? Make a week-long diary of how your time is split between work, home and pleasure. Then highlight the places where you waste time, and think what you could do differently to manage time and make life less stressful.

  • Take a positive approach

The way you see life can have a profound effect on your stress levels. Sometimes our view on a situation is justified but often it is not. By talking to friends or colleagues you may get a different perspective on a situation and will often find that it is not as bad as you first thought. Try to replace negative thoughts with positives - it may seem strange at first but it really does work!

  • Keep fit and healthy

By ensuring we eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise, reduce our intake of alcohol, quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight we will be giving our mind and body the support it needs to be healthy and cope with pressure.

  • Speak to others

By talking to a friend or relative about your situation it will help you see things in a new light and address the issue with a more positive approach. When we connect with others it has a positive effect on our emotions and helps reduce our stress levels. Speak to people rather than text or email, where emotions can be lost and words can be misinterpreted.

  • Find a hobby

By engaging in a hobby that you enjoy and that has no pressures or deadlines will help you take your mind off your stressors.

  • Accept that change is inevitable

Change is happening all the time, how you deal with that change will affect how you feel. If something in your life is not going the way you wish and you have the chance to change it, do so. If the situation is out of your control then you have to accept this and move on. Spending time and energy worrying over the issues you have no control over will just lead to more stress. Try to see positives in change when at first it may appear negative.

  • Avoid turning to unhealthy habits

When people are stressed, often the first thing they do is turn to alcohol or cigarettes to ease the situation but in reality this only makes it worse. Drinking alcohol may give an instant feeling of calm but side effects include: dehydration, disturbed sleep patterns, sweating, liver disease and addiction. Nicotine is a stimulant and too much makes the body react to trigger the stress response system increasing anxiety symptoms and only exasperating stress levels.

  • Volunteer

People who volunteer their time often use this to balance their lives and are often more resilient to stress. Helping those less fortunate than yourself can often lead to reduced stress levels by readdressing your own issues and you can gain so much by connecting with others. Can you link your hobby with your volunteering so you gain and give at the same time?