As we look to the New Year and wave goodbye to 2020 we may be feeling stressed with what this new chapter will bring. While we cannot control what happens around us we can take control of our outlook and understand how to spot, prevent and treat stress in both our personal and work life.
Challenge: Dry January
This month we challenge you to stay off alcohol for 30 days to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Taking part in Dry January is a chance to ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, boost your energy and save some serious money, while doing your body a lot of good. More importantly, it's a way to reset your relationship with alcohol and drink more healthily year-round.
- Stay off booze for 30 days this month
- Challenge your friends and colleagues to do the same
- Post the image above and text on your social media channels and tag @electricalcharity #DryJanuary
I am taking part in Dry January with EIC to boost my health and wellbeing. Instead of buying me a pint, please donate to EIC, so they can continue supporting our industry: https://bit.ly/3pHkGxJ @electricalcharity #DryJanuary
- Donate the money you’ve saved staying off booze to EIC, if you wish: https://bit.ly/3pHkGxJ
Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But too much stress can affect our mood, our body, and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable and affect our self-esteem. Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person.
The level of stress you are comfortable with may be higher or lower than that of other people around you. Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face. Pressure at work, school or home, illness, or difficult or sudden life events can all lead to stress.
The scale and volume of issues that people are suddenly faced with can be overwhelming. Getting the right diagnosis, managing symptoms and accessing rehabilitation, finding support in the community, managing the emotional impact, dealing with financial and legal matters – the list is long and complex and places great demands on people at their most vulnerable.
What causes stress?
Anything and everything can cause stress from major life transitions to small changes in people’s behaviour. Some possible causes of stress are:
- Our individual genes, upbringing, and experiences
- Difficulties in our personal lives and relationships
- Big or unexpected life changes, like moving to a new house, having a baby, or starting to care for someone
- Money difficulties, like debt or struggling to afford daily essentials
- Health issues, either for you or someone close to you
- Pregnancy and children
- Problems with housing, like the conditions, maintenance, or tenancy
- A difficult or troubled work environment
- Feeling lonely and unsupported
Types of stress?
There are lots of different types of stress and they can all have a massive impact on our wellbeing. Listed below are some different stress types:
- Physical stress – late nights, binge drinking, illicit drug use, poor diet.
- Environmental stress – poor housing, socio/economic status, unemployment
- Emotional stress – relationship problems, peer pressure, highly expressed emotion within the family home
- Acute life event stress – bereavements, physical illness, arrest/imprisonment
- Chronic stress – accommodation problems, debts, prolonged use of drugs and alcohol.
Symptoms of stress:
We all experience stress in different ways. It can affect our eating habits, sleeping patterns, mood, libido and our overall wellbeing.
If you are feeling stressed, you may:
- Feel overwhelmed
- Have racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
- Be irritable
- Feel constantly worried, anxious or scared
- Feel a lack of self-confidence
- Have trouble sleeping or feel tired all the time
- Avoid things or people you are having problems with
- Be eating more or less than usual
- Drink or smoke more than usual
Stress can manifest in a whole heap of different ways. You may not even think you are that stressed until you reach a breaking point but if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms it could be because you are stressed.
Stress is a huge problem across the globe. As humans we depend on so many things in our life to keep well-balanced wellbeing, our jobs, families, personal relationships, exercise, diet and finances. If one of these factors goes off balance, like a relationship breakdown, an unexpected drop in income, a family rift or new work colleague we can find our equilibrium is thrown off balance and stress may occur. Here’s some statistics on stress within the UK.
- In 2020, 79% commonly experience work-related stress.
- Just 1% state that they ‘never’ experience work stress, while a lucky 17% ‘rarely’ experience stress of this kind.
- On a weekly basis, 25-34-year olds are feeling the most work-related stress
The Electrical Industries Charity can support you and your immediate family if you are a current employee, apprentice or retiree from the electrical and energy sector. Jenny works within the generation and renewables sector and had been an employee for more than several years. Working within a competitive environment Jenny found she was being considered for redundancy and in the first instance contacted the Electrical Industries Charity for CV support.
The Electrical Industries Charity offer members of our industry specialist CV writing support and can even provide a mentor within our sector to run through interview questions and develop your skills. Jenny wished to revamp her CV but in her initial call with the charity welfare team she disclosed she had been struggling with her mental wellbeing. 1 in 3 of those who approach the Electrical Industries Charity for assistance need mental health support and in 2019/20 we issued 13,238 grants for counselling support to those in our sector. Jenny had tried to overcome her mental health issues herself but found she was unable to cope – a common thread within our industry.
Upon further talks with the Electrical Industries Charity welfare team it became apparent Jenny was struggling with ongoing and unrelenting workplace stress accelerated by the thought of redundancy. As well as this Jenny had recently suffered a family bereavement and her stress levels began to spiral. Jenny struggled to cope with bereavement alongside work and found her mental wellbeing severely compromised. Jenny was assigned a charity welfare case worker and she was referred for a psychological assessment which was sourced and funded by the charity. Jenny was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and was suffering with work related burnout.
The charity sought a therapist for Jenny who through six sessions helped her to restore her sense of self and equipped Jenny with some coping strategies to help spot and manage stress as well as prevent it. Jenny and her therapist worked through her grief and since her sessions Jenny has been coping much better on the days where grief and stress may leave her feeling overloaded. Thanks to the Electrical Industries Charity support Jenny is in a much better headspace and has found that her workplace stress no longer effects or exacerbates personal matters and vice versa. Jenny is much happier and although she still does struggle with waves of grief and stress, she now has the tools needed to tackle both effectively.
If you’re struggling with workplace stress here are some top tips that you can use to help yourself feel more zen:
- Form positive relationships at work
- Start exercising or exercise more
- Eat well and snack well
- Get enough sleep
- Prioritise and organise
- Kick bad habits – stay positive, resist perfectionism and focus on what you can control
We all experience stress at some point in our life. Stress can be related to home, work, finances or relationships and is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. Stress can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But too much stress can affect our mood, our body, and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable and affect our self-esteem. Within the UK 74% of people reported in 2019 they have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope and 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious. While at work 79% commonly experience work-related stress and the electrical and energy sector is one of the most stressful industries to work within. 76% of those who seek mental health assistance from the Electrical Industries Charity are diagnosed with anxiety or depression a lot of which is caused by stress and subsequent burnout.
Mike, an employee of the electrical wholesaling and retailing industry had been working within the sector for a few years. Retailing and wholesaling can sometimes generate a culture of stress with high targets, employee competition and unsociable working hours. Mike approached the charity after struggling with workplace stress. He had been signed off from work for a prolonged period due to exhaustion and had found he was dreading his return to store. While a period off work can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered, a prolonged instance of absence can lead to more stressful thoughts and anxious behaviours. You may think colleagues have been talking badly of you, anxious of inhouse changes or worried people’s behaviour may change towards you on your return. While these thoughts are mostly irrational, they can be huge factors in return to work anxiety.
Mike had been struggling to cope inhouse with his team reduced and his workload increasing, and this had resulted in high levels of workplace stress. Mike began to work more hours to try and keep up with his workload but found his work/life balance was completely gone. Long working hours is one of the top ten causes of workplace stress and 25% say it is one of their main stressors within the workplace. Upon reaching out to the Electrical Industries Charity Mike was assigned a welfare team member to discuss his case. In the first instance the Electrical Industries Charity will offer a listening ear, help to establish what support you may need and then can guide you in the right direction. The charity spoke with Mike and sourced and funded therapy sessions to help him manage his stress and resulting anxiety.
During therapy sessions Mike was taught tips to prevent and manage stress and was shown various ways to react differently to what may be stressful situations. Mike attended therapy sessions consistently and the charity kept in constant contact with Mike ensuring he was happy with his therapy and therapist. After 12 sessions Mike finished his therapy and felt he had been equipped with the necessary tools to prevent, manage and cope with workplace stress. Mike is now in a much better place since completing his therapy course and The Electrical Industries Charity have since closed Mike’s case.
If you are struggling with workplace stress, exhaustion or burnout the Electrical Industries Charity are here to support you.
We may think we have a good understanding of stress, how we react to it and how we manage it but sometimes stress can be difficult to spot. You may notice you’re feeling more tired, anxious or even ill, but you may not link these feelings to stress.
A brilliant way to spot stress is by asking yourself these key questions:
- Do you experience any of the following symptoms: headaches, chest pain, muscle tension, nausea, or changes in sex drive?
- Do you experience fatigue and/or struggle to fall or stay asleep?
- Do you worry excessively and feel overwhelmed with responsibilities?
- Do you struggle to focus on tasks or stay motivated?
- Do you experience irritability, sadness, or anger?
- Do you have little appetite or find that you are overeating?
- Do you struggle to regulate how much caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco you use?
- Do you withdraw from others or feel overwhelmed in groups of people?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, you’re probably experiencing stress
There are a whole list of ways to deal and manage with stress. While we may be unable to control our external circumstances and the things which may become stressors, we can control our reaction to them which in turn can help reduce and even eradicate stress.
1) Realise when it is causing you a problem
- Try to make the connection between feeling tired or ill and the pressures you are faced with
- Look out for physical warnings such as tense muscles, over-tiredness headaches or migraines
2) Identify the causes
- Try to identify the underlying causes
- Sort the possible reasons for your stress into three categories:
- 1) Those with a practical solution
2) Those that will get better given time and
3) Those you can’t do anything about
- Try to release the worry of those in the second and third groups and let them go
3) Review your lifestyle
- Could you be taking on too much?
- Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else?
- Can you do things in a more leisurely way?
- To act on the answer to these questions, you may need to prioritise things you are trying to achieve and re-organise your life
- This will help to release pressure that can come from trying to do everything at once
You can also try the following ways to reduce stress levels:
- Eating well - There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this. You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water.
- Exercise - Try and integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving stress. Even just going out and getting some fresh air, and taking some light physical exercise, like going for a walk to the shops can really help.
- Take time out - Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself, this can really reduce stress levels. Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care· Are you needing time out but saying ‘I just can’t take the time off’, if so read more about how taking a break is important for good mental health.
- Be mindful - Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices. Try to practice mindfulness regularly. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time. Research has suggested that it can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and related problems such as insomnia, poor concentration and low moods, in some people.
- Get some restful sleep - Are you finding you are struggling to sleep? This is a common problem when you’re stressed. Could your physical or mental health be impacting your ability to sleep? Could you amend your environment to help improve your sleep? Could you get up instead of staying in bed when your mind is worrying at night? Could you make small changes to your lifestyle to help your get a restful sleep?
- Don't be too hard on yourself - Try to keep things in perspective. Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience. When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults, try and find truth and exception to what is being said. If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up. Act as if you were your own best friend, be kind and supportive. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself.
Workplace stress can be common for many. We spend most of our lives in our work environment, that means liaising with work colleagues, completing work tasks and prioritising work commitments. It is because we spend so much time in work that a lot of our stress can come from the workplace. There are some strategies which you can do to help manage workplace stress.
1) Prioritise self-care
Almost always the email can wait until tomorrow, you can call that person back after a lunch break. Work will always be there tomorrow. Take time for yourself.
2) A problem shared is a problem halved
If you’re struggling at work or beginning to feel as though you could struggle, then talk! To family, friends and colleagues if you can.
3) Take breaks from your desk to walk, stand, breathe and try a 10-minute home workout to decompress
4) Practice mindfulness, meditation, and yoga
This can be a group led session facilitated within your workplace or over teams, zoom or hangouts.
5) Remember to remind yourself that you are doing your best
You are capable, and you can only do what you can do. While it is inevitable that sometimes we will get stressed we can use the techniques listed to help reduce stress levels and restore some sort of balance.
- Encourage workplace wellness
Employees feel valued when they think you're looking out for their health! A study by Peapod.com reported that 66% of employees felt extremely or very happy when their employer regularly stocked the refrigerator and cupboards, and 83% said that having healthy and fresh snack options was a huge perk.
• Encourage employees to go on a walk during lunch breaks
• Subsidise gym memberships
• Bring a yoga instructor into the office once a month
• Hold a steps contest among teams for those who own fitness trackers
• Offer healthy snacks in the office
- Revamp the habitat
A lot of stress comes from environment. Think about every aspect of your office space and what it does (or doesn’t do) for the wellness of your team. Simple things like the quality of the coffee or the height of the cubicle walls can affect employee engagement.
Update the office with an upbeat colour scheme, additional plants, or new silverware. If you have the space, think about adding a ping pong or football table to allow employees to take their mind off of their stress for a few minutes. Any changes that increase employee enjoyment will leave them feeling less stressed.
- Allow for flexible working
You hired your employees because you have confidence in their ability to do their jobs well and in a timely manner—so let them prove it. Your office shouldn’t feel like a cell, but rather a place that facilitates getting a job done. Let your employees know that their job is defined by the quality and timeliness of their work, not when they punch the clock.
Allow your employees to work remotely and give flexibility for start and end times. This freedom is great for office morale, and the policy shows employees that you trust them enough not to babysit.
- Encourage employee social activity
Employees spend a lot of time together, and the more comfortable they are, the less stress they will feel. As co-workers get to know each other, expectations and communication barriers are broken down, greasing the wheels for easier future interactions.
- Create quiet time.
Stress can't be completely avoided, but you can help alleviate it when it arrives. Ensure your employees have a place where they can take a break. Research shows that more than 80 percent of disengaged and hostile employees preferred the opportunity to have stress-relief breaks, such as a nap, massage, or required break. A small room, a lounge space at the end of the hall, and even an outdoor bench can be perfect places to find refuge from the chaos of the daily grind. Think about longer, retreat-style vacations, which can serve the same purpose. If your organisation can afford to do so, consider implementing "No Meeting Mondays" or something similar, essentially blocking off time for employees to focus in on individual task and keep from getting bogged down with meetings or overwhelmed by a heavy workload.
- Provide onsite or distance counselling
Many companies have also begun providing counselling as a way for employees to help deal with stress; in a recent study, almost half of workers felt they needed help in learning how to handle the stresses of their jobs. This strategy—in or out of the office, in group settings or individually—can help employees prepare for what stress will come their way.
- Recognise your employees
Employees love being praised for a job well done and recognising their success results in a serious boost in engagement. Each employee has a different personality, so be mindful when considering how and when to recognize. Some employees appreciate a call-out during a meeting or praise in a company-wide email, while more reserved types might prefer a card on their desk or a thank you in person. However you choose to recognise your employees they will appreciate that you are aware of their success and will want to share it with others. This makes them happier and more comfortable, in turn lowering their stress levels.
Burnout is best described as a state of severe emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, which is often defined by “excessive and prolonged periods of stress”. The condition causes individuals to experience enormous amounts of distress when attempting to meet the constant demands of life. Burnout is most often associated with work and with many of us now working from home, ‘job burnout’ has become more common. Someone with work-related stress for example, may feel a lack of motivation and a sense of dissatisfaction in their job. However, someone with burnout may well experience physical energy loss and an inability to function. Whilst stress may instil a loss of hope, burnout would cause frustration, disruption and extreme cynicism about everything associated with the job.
Why does burnout occur?
Lack of control:
An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work. With the ongoing ever changing circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic your role may be changing, your responsibilities increasing, you may not have the same access to office resources and you may find you’re taking less breaks because it’s just you and the desk at home.
Unclear job expectations:
If you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you're not likely to feel comfortable at work. You may feel a communication barrier between you, colleagues and superior while working at home. The gaps left by furloughing or redundancy may feel huge and you may be unsure who to ask for support.
Dysfunctional workplace dynamics:
Perhaps you work with an office bully, or you feel undermined by colleagues or your boss micromanages your work. This can contribute to job stress. Although you’re unlikely to deal with workplace friction at home, it can be difficult to maintain bonds with colleagues and set boundaries.
Extremes of activity:
When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout. Without the buzz of an office or the welcome break of a communal coffee machine working from home can feel monotonous and although maybe a slower pace, chaotic. Everything you associated with work, a takeaway coffee, a commute, a desk buddy, a walk to the shop is now replaced with all the things which meant home to you – a dining table, a kettle, a sofa. This can feel chaotic.
Lack of social support:
If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed. Now that a lot of the workforce is at home you may feel isolated from your work colleagues and with socialising restricted you can feel isolated from your nearest and dearest. These factors can attribute to feelings of stress.
If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly. If you find that you’re spending longer hours working while at home or you can’t resist the urge to quickly reply to an email in the evening or early hours then you’re struggling to keep a work-life balance and you may suffer burn out.
Poor wellbeing and health:
If you don’t look after yourself, you are more likely to experience burnout. Not maintaining regular exercise, having a poor diet, not drinking enough water and not taking time out for you can all mean you are more susceptible to experiencing burnout.
Fatigue: Initially, you may feel tired most days, low in energy and lethargic. You then may become physically and emotionally exhausted and depleted of resources.
Insomnia: You may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. This however can turn into insomnia and become much more troublesome. Despite increasing levels of exhaustion, it becomes even more difficult to sleep.
Forgetfulness / lack of concentration: A loss in focus, or some forgetfulness. Later on, work becomes unmanageable and everything begins to pile up.
More susceptible to illness: As the body’s natural resources become depleted, your immune system weakens. You may find that illness strikes more frequently, ranging from a cold to flu-like symptoms.
Loss of appetite: Initially, hunger levels may drop as a result of stress. However, this can lead to appetite being lost altogether, leading to noticeable levels of weight loss.
Physical symptoms: These can take place in a number of increasingly severe ways. Physical symptoms may include a shortness of breath, or even persistent chest pains. Some may feel heart palpitations, dizziness, headaches and stomach problems including diarrhoea.
Anxiety: These can take place in a number of increasingly severe ways. Physical symptoms may include a shortness of breath, or even persistent chest pains. Some may feel heart palpitations, dizziness, headaches and stomach problems including diarrhoea.
Depression: These can take place in a number of increasingly severe ways. Physical symptoms may include a shortness of breath, or even persistent chest pains. Some may feel heart palpitations, dizziness, headaches and stomach problems including diarrhoea.
Anger: Initially, this may present as irritability and frustration. Eventually, this may turn into resentment, leading to angry outbursts. There could be serious arguments at home and a feeling that no-one actually appreciates you for anything that you do. If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or colleagues, you should seek immediate professional assistance, the Electrical Industries Charity can help you.
Isolation: As anger intensifies, you may feel you want to avoid everyone as you feel too frustrated and too busy to form and maintain friendships, leading to spending more time alone and losing social interaction.
Talk, talk and talk: You can try and talk to your friends, family or your colleagues. It really is true, a problem shared is a problem halved. Approach someone you trust and just start by saying ‘can I talk to you?’ If you feel as though you can’t talk to someone you know you can speak to an independent charity. Approach the Electrical Industries Charity for a listening ear. You can contact CALM, a charity for men between the ages of 15 to 35 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight), or Anxiety UK - 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm). Alternatively, why not seek talking therapy? Or speak to your GP.
Get some rest: Try napping for 20 minutes or if you can’t drift off just close your eyes. Resting improves your cognitive functioning and can help you process tasks and approach them in the best way.
Remind yourself to strive for 'good enough' and not perfection: Perfectionism can hinder success and may be a large cause for burnout. We can often measure ourselves against impossibly high standards and striving to achieve these standards. Setting the bar too high is dangerous as we will never consistently be able to deliver. Get yourself comfortable with the idea of incompletion.
Encourage taking regular breaks: A great way to begin to recover from burnout is to encourage time away from work, which in turn gives the distance and time needed to relax and de-stress. Of course, the stress, issues and problems that you're experiencing at work may still be there when you get back, however, taking time off is essential for getting the rest you need to come up with long-term solutions to burnout.
Start saying no: Just say no. If you don’t have the time or the capacity and you can’t reasonably make the time, or the capacity say no. Same goes for friends and family. If you don’t want to do the favour say no without guilt, if you don’t want to see someone say no. Set boundaries for yourself and adhere to them. It may seem unnatural but do it without feeling guilty or ashamed. There is no embarrassment in saying not today.
Step away from what you’re doing: Take 5,10 or 15 minutes away from your task. Step away and do something else. Drop a friend a phone call, listen to a short podcast, go for a wander, make a coffee and enjoy it while looking out the window, do 10-minute workout or meditation just step away from the screen.
Move around: Stand up and do a few laps outside or inside. If the weather is rubbish, try a bit of indoor yoga or some stretching. Take 10 minutes every 2 hours to move. It will help reduce stress, prevent stiffness, headaches and eyestrain.
Change your surroundings: Swap your room, swap your position. Face the window, sit on your sofa, your kitchen table, try sitting on the floor if you fancy. Keep up the versatility and interest in your days.
Call a friend: It is proven that texting is nowhere near enough to reduce anxiety or stress levels. Video chat or call a friend. It’s so important we stay connected in a society where being disconnected is the norm.
Be compassionate with yourself: Don’t beat yourself up about tasks not achieved or not being able to reach maximum productivity all the time. Give yourself credit. You’re trying your best and you’re doing what you can. Let yourself feel stress but don’t let it consume you. Remind yourself you’ve got this and you’re going to get it done.
Dance like no one is watching – engage your mind, body and have a good old boogie
Have a sing-song – belt out a tune and feel your spirits lift
Give a puzzle a go – try a crossword, wordsearch or sudoku. Engage your mind and take some time to concentrate on something which is inconsequential.
Cook or clean – both require a little bit of physicality and a little planning, which are both stress busting.