Thursday 15 November 2018

Spotting the tell tale signs of stress and taking action

In an ever-changing economy with increasing reliance on technology, there is an expectation that we can do more with less resources. The situations and pressures that we find ourselves under at work can easily cause stress, when not addressed.

The truth is, that as stress becomes normal within our working lives we may not even notice when we are suffering – though it will undoubtedly alter our behaviour with colleagues. Sometimes it will be up to others to point it out to us. Colleagues may comment that we are more irritable than usual or that we appear less tolerant or decisive than we would normally be.

Rather than be defensive, when this happens to you, take it as a wakeup call and an opportunity to take a look within and see if what people are saying is true. When it comes to being under stress we can be the last to realise, so understanding how stress can present itself can help you manage your own stress levels and take preventative action before it becomes an issue.

Too much sleep

In the early stages of stress, you may find yourself being more tired than usual and have a general lack of energy. Your need to rest will be greater than usual, but even after sleep you won’t feel rested. Stress can make you feel physically and emotionally drained.

Too little sleep

Ironically, often when you feel like you need sleep the most, sleep will escape you. When we are under stress, our minds work overtime and this continues when our heads hit the pillow. Minor stress may result in a couple of restless nights, however, sometimes the lack of sleep can actually add to the stress we are under.


Colleagues may notice you are ‘off your game’ or that you are lacking the drive and focus you usually have. Mild forgetfulness is an early sign of stress, as is an inability to make decisions. At the time when you need to be productive, you could find that your stress makes it harder to accomplish half of what you need to, causing work to pile up and deadlines to be missed.

Increased illness

When the stress really takes hold – and your mind refuses to accept that you are putting yourself under more pressure than usual – your body may take over. You may find that when you’re under stress you become more susceptible to infections and colds and other minor ailments. This is your body's way of making you get the rest you need.

These are just a few of the subtle signs that you’re under stress. There are more. But once you’ve recognised that you’re suffering, the question is: what can you do about it? This article from Psychology Today contains some useful and inspirational strategies to help you find the strength within to manage your stress levels:

And here are some of our suggestions:

Take a break

Once you've identified what is causing your stress, make a conscious decision to separate yourself from it for a short time. Gaining some distance from the issues that are bothering you mentally, can help to put things in perspective. Sometimes your stressors may be difficult to get away from – such as debt, or a major work deadline – if this is the case, even 15 minutes spent doing something you love will really help to focus your mind and make things easier to manage.

Get moving

The benefits that exercise has on your body is well documented, but more than that, keeping active is just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health. We’re not talking about hitting the gym – though that may help – even a short walk can have an immediate calming effect on your mental wellbeing.

Be mindful

Meditation and mindfulness help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, and develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practising mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can make a difference.

For more information about stress in the workplace check out our Guide to Stress.