Stress Awareness Month is held every April to increase public awareness about the causes and cures for our modern-day stress epidemic.
Stress and mental health challenges are one of the biggest public health challenges that we’re facing in Britain today. In the UK’s largest ever stress survey, 74% of people said stress has made them feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
This year for Stress Awareness month, the theme focuses on empowering and inspiring people into action. The Stress Management Society are encouraging people to go beyond talk, and campaign for taking action and personal responsibility in creating a positive change. The aim is to get people to consider how they are going to improve things and make them better. The commitment of the Stress Management Society is to support individuals and organisations in taking action.
Building resilience to stress
One of the ways we can take action and personal responsibility in creating positive change with stress, is to build resilience.
Mind Charity tells us that being prepared for periods of stress can make it easier to get through them. Having the ability to manage our wellbeing can help us to navigate stress and stressful events; known as resilience. Building resilience involves taking care of your physical health, and being assertive in the tasks or activities you can or can’t take on. It’s important to figure out how much you can handle, and to ask for help when you are feeling under pressure.
However, Mind Charity also point out that stress is not always something we can easily control, and there are many instances where causes of stress are beyond our control. For example, being a single parent, experiencing poverty, or living far away from family and friends. Some people’s experiences will make stress very personal and harder for them to resolve or deal with.
It is a good idea to work on resilience skills in areas of your life where you have the capacity. In other areas of your life where it is more difficult or impossible to build resilience, you can seek help or useful resources, and you must remember that it is not your fault.
While a certain level of pressure and demand can help keep you motivated at work, if it becomes too much, it can lead to high levels of stress. It is important to take action if you feel high levels of stress at work.
Bupa UK found that more than 800,000 people (around one in 40 workers) were thought to be affected by work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020 to 2021. They found that some of the causes of stress at work included demands of your job, a change in your workplace, difficult relationships with colleagues, and being unclear about your job role. Stress at work can affect a person’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
Bupa UK and Mind Charity have some helpful tips for managing stress at work:
- Make sure you take regular breaks. If you can, try to get outside and take a walk. Both exercise and spending time outdoors are good for your mental and physical health.
- Maintain a healthy work–life balance. Don’t neglect your family or relationships outside of work.
- Agree a fair and achievable workload with your manager, and make sure deadlines and targets are realistic.
- Try practising mindfulness. This practice is about focusing on the here and now. It might help you to find calmness and clarity to respond to stressful situations.
Mental Health First Aiders
During January 2023, 31 colleagues from across Active Care Group embarked on a journey to become fully qualified Mental Health First Aiders. This is a reflection of our commitment to the Group’s Wellbeing Strategy which focuses upon colleagues physical and mental health, and wellbeing.
Our qualified Mental Health First Aiders provide a point of contact for colleagues who are experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. Our colleagues are able to talk to them in complete confidence.
Colin Mitchell, our Head of Health and Safety, and Team Mental Health First Aider, provides activities for our colleagues to help reduce stress.
“It is well known that physical activity improves wellbeing and helps to relieve stress. Therefore, coming soon to Active Care Group is a step count challenge which is being organised for all our colleagues where we will see teams come together on a set day to collectively record the most steps in one 24 hr period. There will be prizes for the teams that achieve the most.
“There are regular initiatives planned to help colleagues cope with stress at work, and with mental health, including over 30 trained Mental Health First Aiders in the company that will listen to you, support you and will sign-post you to organisations who can offer expert advice and guidance.”
While Mental Health First Aiders are not trained to be therapists or psychiatrists, they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance.
Mental Health First Aiders are an excellent resource for employees who are struggling with stress, and need help reducing their levels of stress. They can help to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of our colleagues.
Employee Assistance Program
At Active Care Group we have an Employee Assistance Program that offers health and wellbeing support to our colleagues.
It is a free confidential service that offers support 24/7, 365 days of the year via their UK based team through telephone or online.
Sometimes the pressure of daily life and work can get to us and they can often be difficult to balance. This service offers friendly, caring and un-judgemental support to you and your immediate family. They can help people overcome physical, mental, social and financial challenges.
The Employee Assistance Program also offers a virtual library of health and wellbeing information. It offers fitness and lifestyle advice, self-help programmes, and financial wellbeing articles.
The program specifically focuses on helping people through stress and anxiety, both work related, and non-work related.
Below are some self-care strategies from Mental Health UK to help reduce stress.
- Establish your priorities – be it in work or daily life
- Complete your own stress bucket to identify stressors and how to manage them
- Reach out to family and friends
- Spend time exercising or out in nature
- Once a week, try to set time aside for a hobby you love or try something new
The Health & Safety Executive have many resources in tackling workplace stress including a talking toolkit which is designed to help managers and others hold initial conversations with employees as part of our organisation’s overall approach for preventing and managing work-related stress. See here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/assets/docs/talking-toolkit-nhs-england.pdf
We have listed more resources below to help with noticing the signs of stress, managing stress, and where to reach out if you are struggling.
Samaritans is free for you to call and talk to someone.
NHS Services has a list of where to get urgent help for mental health.
Mind website. Click the ‘Get help now’ button on the page. This is a tool that is designed to help you understand what’s happening to you and how you can help yourself.