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Occupational Health and Wellbeing is there to support staff if they feel that their life is being impacted adversely by stress caused by either work or personal factors.

What is stress?

Usually when people talk about stress, it refers to how they are experiencing their life when the demands made upon them are becoming overwhelming and there is a perception, or fear, that they are, or will become, unable to cope.

There are different levels of stress, some of which we would think of as ‘normal’ e.g. prior to an exam, or daily stressful situations which arise which we cope with and forget about.

However, where the signs of stress continue over a long period of time, they can have serious implications for our physical and mental health including; depression, stress/ anxiety, ulcers, high blood pressure, stroke, low resistance to infection etc.

Life events can be stressful - even the happy ones

Consider the following:

Bereavement           Pregnancy                   Problems at work

Health problems      Disagreements             Redundancy

Family gathering e.g. Christmas

Divorce/ relationship breakdown etc ...

Getting married       Birth of a child             Promotions

Financial problems   Minor legal problems    Changes in the workplace

Stress can alter how people feel physically/ emotionally or change how they behave

Experience of some of these could indicate someone is suffering from a level of stress. In the short term this is often manageable, but, if not addressed, could contribute to more long term difficulties.


Physical Symptoms

Headaches                     Feeling sick/ nauseous   Feeling hot/ cold

Chest pains                    Pins & needles              Muscle tension/ shaking

Bowel / bladder problems       Nervous twitches/ cough

Feeling faint or dizzy       Sweating                      Palpitations

Breathlessness               High blood pressure       Upset stomach

Indigestion/ heartburn    Dry mouth                   



Low mood/ depressed     Anxiety/ Fear of failure    Irritable/ Angry            

Lack of motivation          Lack of pleasure              No interest in life         

Feeling neglected           Outbursts of anger          Avoiding situations

Changes in eating/ drinking habits

Hard to make decisions          Become forgetful

Keeping busy, can’t relax       Changes in sleeping pattern

Snappy with people        Stay off work                  Stay in bed

Double checking             Stop going out for fun     Trouble concentrating

How to cope with stress

The best way to deal with stress is to do something about it as soon as possible.  Recognise it, take control of the causes and the symptoms and get a plan of action in place. The following all help to reduce stress:

Focus on the present, don’t worry about the past or build up anxieties about the Future

Be realistic about what you can do in a day

Socialise regularly with friends

Say no: don’t feel guilty about saying no

Time management: take regular breaks, plan work, don’t over commit yourself at work or socially, prioritise

Work: identify what you need and

address it either alone or with a manager

Take time each day to unwind and relax

Get active: join a gym, walk, dance, etc

Eat a healthy diet, eat slowly

Holiday: try to plan regular breaks

ADMIT to yourself that you are feeling stressed and do something about it!

Learn to relax

Everyone can learn to relax but like many things in life e.g. learning to ride a bike, it can take practice, so if you don’t feel relaxed straight away, don’t give up. Practise daily:

  • Find a quiet place where you feel comfortable
  • Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply
  • As you breathe out imagine the tension being sent out of your body
  • Plan a route around your body going from hands, to arms, neck, face, shoulders, chest, stomach, buttocks, legs
  • Clench: (neck, roll from side to side and for the face, frown, raise eyebrows etc) each area of your face and body and as you breath out, feel the tension from that area release
  • AND RELAX…. If you are starting to feel stressed during the day, you will be amazed at what 5-10 long, slow, deep breathes in and out as you roll your neck and shoulders can achieve!


Where to get further advice and support

In addition to your usual sources of support from home and work, counselling is available through your Trust / Employer - check the Intranet for more details

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