How to Identify and Manage Stress

How to Identify and Manage Stress

How to Identify and Manage Stress 

According to statistics from the HSE in Great Britain, in 2022/23 there were 875,000 cases of work related stress, depression, and anxiety.   There are still ongoing negative impacts of coronavirus on individuals and businesses, as well as Brexit in the UK, the cost of living crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the overall geopolitical issues.  The mental health organization, TalkOut, reported that 35% of workers said that their mental health had got worse since the start of the pandemic and only 44% had received support or advice from their employers.

Despite half of sickness absence being due to stress, anxiety, and depression, many employees still won’t admit that they are suffering from stress or mental health issues, and often they will ask their GP to be signed off with some mystery illness, such as stomach problems or ‘flu like symptoms.  Therefore, sickness absence figures due to stress are often inaccurate, may be even higher than reported, and mask the real issues. A survey by ACAS on 2,000 employees found that two-thirds had felt stressed or anxious about work; a survey of 1,500 employees in SMEs found that 23% would prefer not to explain an absence from work rather than talk about mental health issues.   

So, it’s important that organizations invest in the physical and mental health and well-being of their employees.  However, often line managers fail to identify stress either in themselves or in their team members, or fail to deal with the signs early on, which has been exacerbated by the shift to many employees working from home and remote working.  This can result in cases of burnout where individuals experience mental exhaustion with possible feelings of resentment and aggression towards their employer or colleagues.  Sometimes GPs will misdiagnose burnout (or executive stress/nervous exhaustion) as depression when in fact the individual may be suffering from chronic fatigue and insomnia as a result of overworking and may need total rest. 

Causes of Stress in the Workplace

The main cause of stress in the workplace is said to be the inability to cope with a high workload, with other causes listed as:

  • Trying to manage a work life balance
  • Coping with a challenging manager
  • Worrying about invisible pressure
  • Increase in responsibility
  • Lack of support from management
  • Poor working relationships
  • Email overload
  • Inability to cope with change of manager, owner, location
  • Inability to cope with uncertainty over job security
  • Lack of feedback on job performance
  • Feelings of being undervalued or undermined
  • Lack of clarity around the job role
  • Lack of ownership of key tasks and decisions
  • Little or no Training and Development

Behaviour Change as a Result of Stress

Stress is complex and may manifest itself in many different ways which makes it difficult to identify.  Workers may display changes in behaviours such as:

  • Become aggressive and confrontational, or withdrawn and isolated
  • Arrive late and leave early
  • Take long breaks, or no breaks
  • Lack concentration or attention to detail
  • Lose weight, or put on weight
  • Have muscle tension and headaches
  • Experience digestive problems
  • Cry a lot
  • Become ill regularly as their immune system becomes compromised
  • Smile less
  • Talk negatively and appear pessimistic
  • Be disruptive

Of course, identifying these issues remotely can be a challenge, which is why regular, virtual 'face to face' 1:1s are crucial.

The Results of Stress on Performance

Stress in the workplace may lead to the following overall effects on performance:

  • Increased sickness absence figures
  • Increase in number of errors
  • More interpersonal conflict and breakdown in working relationships
  • Drop in overall quality
  • Decrease in customer service standards
  • Low engagement
  • Drop in productivity
  • Increase in grievances
  • Increase in employee turnover

Resilience Training and Coaching

Many organizations admit they don’t have a policy for identifying or dealing with employee stress with not even simple questionnaires to identify stress levels, nor a structured approach to dealing with the impact on an individual, team or the organization. Without a strategy to identify, record, monitor or address stress-related incidents or illness, organizations are unable to tackle the real issues and improve sickness absence and attrition rates. 

Resilience Coaching and Training can help to prevent stress at work, significantly reduce associated sickness absence rates, and can achieve excellent ROI.  However individuals can also take responsibility for their own health and well-being and create a work life balance by regularly asking themselves open questions such as:

  • How am I feeling – both physically and mentally?
  • How am I enjoying work on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being excellent?
  • What’s wrong or missing?
  • How are my family and/or friends reacting?
  • What can I do to improve and move my score nearer to 10?

If you're feeling stressed, making small changes to your work and personal life and modifying behaviours can make a big difference to your health and well-being; changes can include limiting or even giving up caffeine, which can aggravate stress symptoms and can cause insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, and increased heart rate.  Creating boundaries at home and work can help if you are feeling overwhelmed.  Taking regular exercise is a great stress buster.  Not taking regular breaks and holidays is counter-productive and not sustainable over a number of years as it can lead to stress, loss in productivity, and ultimately burnout.

'I cannot thank you enough.  I was in a bad way before our Coaching sessions and really didn't understand why.  After just 2 hours you helped me to see why I had lost my mojo and provided practical tips to support me in becoming much happier and more productive again.'  Finance Manager

Stay positive and shout if you need more tools and technigues to manage stress.

About Jill Maidment

If you would like to know more about how we resolve key issues or you would like to book any of the following, please contact me:  You can read my eBook on Resilience here and listen to my Expert Audio Talk on this Topic here:

Executive Coaching and Mentoring, Career and Transition Coaching, Business Coaching, Resilience Coaching, Life Coaching

Leadership Training, High Performance Leadership Development, Management Training, Leadership and Management Team Development, Facilitated Team Away Days, Group Coaching

Executive Assessment, 360 Feedback, Face to Face 360 Feedback, Talent Management and Succession Planning

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