April 29, 2021Published by: Jonny Atter

How to identify and reduce stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and at Battenhall one of the things we’re most proud of is how we look after our team. This was reflected in our recent award for Best Large Agency to Work For at the Company Culture Awards

A big part of our wellbeing approach is how we look after our employees’ mental health – and stress management in particular. Stress is a wide-ranging emotion that can have an impact on everyone at some point in their life. As a company, we have measures in place to minimise and reduce stress within our team, including an in-house health coach and a range of wellbeing benefits. 

But, as much as a company (like ours) can offer care and support, stress management is an individual pursuit too.

What exactly is stress?

We've all heard of stress – some feel it acutely, others barely notice it, and it's different for all of us. What one of us may find stressful, another may find energising. But can we spot stress, or prevent it, before it gets too much?

In a nutshell: yes! But first we need to understand the prevalence of stress, what it is, and then identify ways to help ourselves.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, studies show that stress is the cause of as much as 40% of all work-related sickness. When including anxiety and depression, that rises to 51%. It's never been classified as an illness itself, but prolonged periods of stress can cause a wide range of illnesses, both mental and physiological.

How do I recognise stress?

Stress can show up in many ways. The symptoms can be split into how and where they present: your body, mind, emotions or behaviour.

  1. Body: this includes physical symptoms such as exhaustion, headaches, muscle tension, jaw-clenching and sleep disruption.
  2. Mind: these are more psychological symptoms such as being worried, withdrawn or making hasty decisions.
  3. Emotions: symptoms include feelings of depression, irritability and increased emotional reactions – like being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.
  4. Behaviour: stress symptoms can present in behavioural ways and make you struggle with sleep, become restless, take more time off work or arrive late.

What should I do if my friends or colleagues are stressed?

If you identify any symptoms of stress in your friends and/or colleagues, check in with them. Let them know you’re there and get (or offer) support as needed and wanted by them.

Stress mangagement tips

The rise of health-focused Instagram accounts, YouTube meditation channels and an ever-growing number of apps, means most of us have access to practical self-care methods and advice without needing to leave the house. There’s also help available from hypnotherapists and specialist coaches.

But everyone can reduce and manage stress with some simple tricks and tips that can be used in everyday life...

  1. Talk about it. When you're able to recognise it, talk about it. Awareness is key in helping things improve, as then it can be worked on together.
  2. Put everything on mute. Limit your notifications and make life quieter, by reducing digital overstimulation.
  3. Put your phone away. It doesn’t have to be all day but it’s useful for periods of time, and certainly put it to bed at night. Be with yourself or others without interruption.
  4. Set clear roles and responsibilities. That way it's clear who's doing what or what needs to be done.
  5. Set boundaries and manage your workload. Learn to say “no” to additional responsibilities when you’re too busy or stressed (I see you people-pleasers out there!). You can't help anyone if you're not able to function first. Sometimes things happen where everything comes together and it’s unavoidable, but in these cases it’s important to delegate, share and realise something will need to give, especially if it's going to take place over a long period of time.
  6. Pace, plan and leave some buffer room. Leave enough space for something that needs that bit more attention, plan appropriately, and limit being in a rush.
  7. Meditate, find stillness in the mind, or do breath exercises. Five minutes of breath work, such as breathing in for five seconds, holding for five seconds, and exhaling for five seconds is great, and can easily be incorporated into a lunchtime or break.
  8. Movement. Help ease your muscles and feel better mentally by doing some yoga, simple movement exercises, or general physical exercise.
  9. Eat well and exercise well. Fuel yourself with good, natural food, and get that sweat on!
  10. Laugh and surround yourself with positive things. If stress is the cause of illness, then joy, laughter and fun must be the beacons of health.
  11. Stay connected. Keep in touch with people who keep you calm and make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things.
  12. Let go. Accept that you can’t control everything.
  13. Enjoy activities. Do things that uplift or recharge you.
  14. Get outside. Nature and sunlight are vital for wellbeing.
  15. Take your holiday. Never feel guilty about it, and prepare everything well before you go away so you can fully relax.

Above all: take care of yourself.

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