Occupational Mental Health & Stress
Whilst work can bring much needed fulfilment and structure to lives, sometimes, ever-increasing workloads can leave people feeling overwhelmed and stressed. With recent statistics indicating that one in five of the working population are affected, stress is now the biggest cause of sickness in the UK.
What is stress?
Stress is actually a normal physical response to anything (good or bad) that puts high demands on you or forces you to adjust. It's a word used to describe a range of symptoms which result from excessive physical or psychological demands.
Feeling tense in this way makes your body think it's in danger (the classic 'fight or flight' response). This triggers a series of instantaneous physiological reactions including the release of adrenaline into your system which speeds up your heart, makes you breathe faster, and gives you a burst of energy.
Some stress is normal and even useful. For example, at work stress can help your achieve targets more quickly. But too much stress is bad for our health and long-term exposure to it can lead to serious health problems.
What are the symptoms of work-related stress?
If you have work-related stress, you may find that you often rush to get things done, don't take breaks and continue working from home. Exercise and relaxation go out the window, as does spending time with friends and family.
This has a knock-on effect on your mental state. You may get irritable easily, feel you can't cope, become tearful and sensitive, tense and anxious, perhaps disappointed with self and lose confidence.
Stress can also cause loss of appetite and energy and diminished memory and concentration. Sleep is also commonly disrupted, and can cause people to wake early in the morning.
There are plenty of physical effects too, including diarrhoea or constipation, indigestion, headaches, weight changes, chest pains, joint or back pain.
How do I stop the stress?
Recognising the early signs of stress and responding appropriately is the key to a good outcome. You need to pull back, reassess priorities, address thought patterns which are unhelpful and seek treatment - typically, some form of psychological input.
It's also important to talk directly to your manager if you're stressed at work because he or she has a duty to help you resolve the problem or cause.
Try to recognise what you find stressful and what helps you work better. It's also important to eat a balanced diet and take breaks, preferably with some fresh air. Work regular hours and make sure you take time off to enjoy yourself and spend time with friends and family.
Stress can sometimes result in anxiety and or depression. In such instances, you may benefit with a short course of antidepressant, anti-anxiety medications or simply medicine to help with sleep. Though talking treatment is usually invariably required.
Counseling & Therapy.
CBT is a talking treatment that can help reduce anxiety and stress. The aims of such treatment usually will be about examining the dynamic interaction between you and the work place and to challenge negative thoughts or feelings towards a healthier relationship with work.
Group therapy can be very helpful, providing a forum for you to discuss your distress and hear about how best to minimise and eliminate it. It helps people to understand that they're not alone with their feelings and can be very supportive and encouraging.
For those who have got to a point of breakdown, a period away from work in a safe environment with help from experts can be beneficial to recover and recuperate. It allows people to have a more structured and intense treatment approach away from work and other stresses that could be contributing to their condition.
Day treatment is a good option for patients who require more input than outpatient treatment but cannot stay away from home. Individuals attend a group therapy programme on specific days to explore their concerns and partake in interventions to manage and prevent stress.