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Everyone reacts differently to stressful environments.

In order to look after your mental wellbeing, it’s essential to understand how you react to stress and what you can do to counteract it, as how you handle your stress levels will have a direct impact on both your physical and mental health.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of health problems in the workplace and The Mental Health Foundation recently reported that 74% of U.K adults have felt stressed in the workplace at some point in the last 12 months.

In 2018/19 over 600,000 people in the UK reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety which amounts to 44% of all work-related illnesses.

Some people enjoy a stressful job because they believe that it brings out the best in them. However, on the contrary, others can react negatively and report feelings of pessimism and excessive self-criticism. This can lead to employees setting unrealistic expectations of themselves and can lead to an excessive amount of negative thoughts, and the effect this can have is very unique to each individual.

How to identify if you are feeling stressed

One of the most obvious symptoms you may experience is an inability to think clearly or to think in your normal patterns. At times you may find it more difficult than usual to concentrate, and your overall cognitive ability may decrease. You may feel overwhelmed and as if you are spinning plates which can lead to feelings of constant worry and anxious thoughts. Some other cognitive effects of stress may be memory issues, poor judgement and an abnormally high amount of negative thoughts.

While stress primarily relates to your mental health, you may also have symptoms which are physical such as high blood pressure, aches and pains, chest pains and frequent colds, to name a few. There are also some behavioural symptoms which may arise such as sleeping problems, loss of appetite, use of alcohol/drugs/cigarettes to relax, and generally nervous habits such as nail biting and pacing.

What may be causing you to feel stressed in the workplace?

44% of people reported that an excessive workload was the main contributor to them feeling stressed at work, while 14% felt it derived from a lack of support, 13% from bullying or feeling threatened, 8% from changes taking place and the remaining 21% felt it was something else.

There are however a huge number of different factors which may be contributing to you feeling stressed – some of them can be seen below:

What can you do to help you feel less stressed?

Coping with stress is not always easy because there are constant demands being placed on you, particularly in the workplace from managers, co-workers, suppliers and customers every single day.

The most important thing you can do is to begin identifying and keeping note of when you are feeling stressed. This way you can keep track of what situations cause the most stress so you can begin putting measures in place to ensure that they don’t get worse. It’s also important to understand that stress is a completely normal reaction and that everyone experiences stress at some point in their life.

All this means is that you should find personal coping mechanisms for when you feel stressed. What works for one person, may not necessarily work for you, but by developing and defining healthy reactions and responses to stress, you can begin coping with it effectively. Some tips for coping with stress include:

• Be active, take a break and go for a walk
• Begin working on your time management, try to work smarter, not harder 
• Talk about it with your managers and co-workers so that they can understand more about what’s making you feel stressed
• Take time to relax and set clear work/home boundaries 
• Try and tackle one task at a time. Create a clear list of what needs to be done before beginning to work your way through it 
• Don’t be so harsh on yourself by ensuring that you set realistic self-expectations 
• Meditate 
• Do something you love at least once a day 
• Consider getting professional support

Ultimately, one of the toughest things to understand about stress is that everyone reacts differently to it. Once you can begin understanding what is causing you stress, you can then begin developing effective ways to manage your stress levels, allowing you to avoid negative impacts on your health.

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