Stress can be aroused by a number of different factors, such as conflict with a work colleague, workload or lack of freedom within the workplace. Stress is subjective; what may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another, but that doesn’t make anyone’s stress any less real. This guidance explores the symptoms of stress, how it can be managed, when you should seek help and how to help others.
Stress can put strain on your mental and physical wellbeing, and can prevent you from conducting your work to a high quality. For this reason it is important that, if after reading this guidance, you recognise that you are feeling stressed, you address the problem head on, inform someone of how you are feeling and begin to combat your stress.
Recognising signs of stress
Stress manifests itself in many different forms and there is no one way to recognise when you are stressed; sometimes you may recognise the feeling almost instantly, other times it is not so easy to identify. Below is a list of emotional and physical signs that you may be stressed:
Emotional signs of stress include the following:
- Feeling irritable, aggressive or impatient
- Feeling over-burdened
- Feeling anxious, nervous or afraid
- Being unable to “switch-off” your thoughts
- Being unable to enjoy yourself
- Feeling depressed and uninterested in the life going on around you
- Feeling like you have lost your sense of humour
- Feeling a sense of dread
- Worrying about your health
- Feeling neglected or lonely
Physical signs of stress include the following:
- Shallow breathing or hyperventilating
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension
- Blurred vision or irritated eyes
- Insomnia, night terrors or over sleeping
- Feeling unwell for example, suffering from headaches or sickness and being lethargic
- Outbreaks on the skin and slow healing wounds
If you feel stressed at work, it is important for you to share this with someone you trust, whether that is a colleague and/or your employer. Addressing your stress sooner rather than later can help prevent any work related issues and can build positive mental wellbeing.
If you notice that a colleague may be displaying these signs, talk to them – they may need a friendly face to discuss things with. Be mindful that, on occasion, some colleagues may not wish to share their problems with you in particular – don’t take it personally and ensure to act sympathetically to their needs. Remember, it is important to ensure nobody feels isolated when they are facing stress – make sure your colleagues understand they can talk to them if they want to.
If you are approached by a work colleague, adopt a calm and reassuring demeanour and focus on listening and validating their feelings. It is important that you advise them to address these issues with their employer. Once you have learnt of their stress, you should not tell anyone who doesn’t need to know – this would breach their confidentiality and may knock their confidence in coming forward about any other future issues they may have.
How to manage stress
Once you have identified that you feel stressed, the next step is to take reasonable action so that you don’t become overwhelmed by it. Stress can be managed by adopting a few simple steps to your everyday routine. There is no quick fix to overcoming stress, but you should begin to feel more at ease with yourself when implementing certain “stress busters” in your routine.
The following are suggestions that you can utilise to help reduce stress, some strategies may be more suited to your routine than others, the important thing to remember is to give them a go and discover which achieve positive results:
- Find time for your hobbies or interests by scheduling time away from completing work-based tasks
- Talk to your family or friends regularly about events of the day or any concerns you may have
- Take the opportunity for a holiday outside term times
- Adopt a healthy eating and keep fit regime to your day, regular exercise can stimulate endorphins in your body which brightens mood
- Take time to work out your priorities for the day by scheduling time at the beginning of the day
- Think before you commit to new tasks – do you have the time and resources to complete the task?
- Find ways to move on from past mistakes and learn from them
- Don’t dwell on ‘office politics’, ignore any comments you may hear and, if needs be, discuss the situation with a trusted friend or family member, as necessary
- Accept things that you cannot change or control
- Help others to build your own resilience by talking to others about their problems and swapping experiences
- Avoid drinking or smoking to excess
- Take control of your emotions and decisions by practicing simple techniques such as mindfulness, meditation or yoga
When to seek help
It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed by stress, if you find self-help techniques aren’t working for you, seek professional help. Talking to your GP about your stress can open up treatment pathways for you. Treatment may include therapies such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or prescribed medication. Your GP will take you through your options and together you can find a treatment plan most suitable for your needs.
After you have consulted with your GP on your treatment plan, you need to inform your employer. Take time to discuss how you are feeling and the actions you are taking, they will need to know if you have to take any leave from work in order to manage your stress.
It can feel like a daunting task to step forward and tell someone you are struggling with stress, but remember; the earlier you address your stress, the easier it is to manage.
If you have identified that you are feeling stressed, start addressing it by trying a few self-help techniques. It will take time for you to feel a real difference, so in the meantime, reread your school’s staff wellbeing policy and ensure you understand who to discuss concerns with and the different types of support on offer to staff members. Your school has a duty of care to both staff and pupils, and high levels of stress can affect your mental and physical wellbeing and the quality of your work – so, to combat this, talk to a colleague or your employer and ensure you feel supported.
Education Support Partnership (2016) ‘How to handle stress: teachers & education staff’, <https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/claire-renn/how-handle-stress-teachers> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]
Mind (2015) ‘How to manage stress’, ‘Treatment for stress’, para.1-5, <https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/stress/treatment-for-stress/#.WpUf7YPFK70> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]
Mind (2015) ‘How to manage stress’, ‘Signs of stress’, <https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/stress/signs-of-stress/#.WpUg-oPFK70> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]
NHS.uk (2016) ‘10 stress busters’, <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]
NHS.uk (2017) ‘How to deal with stress’, <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]
Total jobs (2017) ‘5 ways you can support a colleague with a mental health problem’, <https://www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/5-ways-can-support-colleague-mental-health-problem/> [Accessed: 26 February 2018]