Are you feeling stressed today?
If you are, you’re not alone. Far from it. In fact according to MIND – one of the UK’s leading mental health charities – at any one time, 1 in 6 workers in the UK is experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.
The workplace is generally a much more open place in terms of mental health as compared to decades past. And as openness becomes the norm and stigma continues to lessen, more people seek a diagnosis for any mental health problems they may be facing.
The prevalence of stress in the UK is – as the above MIND statistic indicates – pretty high. Indeed, last year England saw a rise in hospital admissions for stress. The rise, which was of seven per cent, was thought to be related to the economic downturn – and people of working age were the most vulnerable group.
Stress and the self-employed worker
According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress is the biggest single cause of sickness absence in the UK, and they estimate that around 105 million working days are lost to stress each year.
Sickness absence studies often show that self-employed people on average take fewer holidays and less time off work sick than their colleagues who work for other people. This is understandable since in most cases when someone is self-employed there’s nobody to cover sick leave. Likewise, when it comes to holiday time it’s not quite as easy as booking a couple of weeks off in a company holiday planner and getting it signed off by the line manager.
On the upside, research suggests that self-employed people score highly for job satisfaction, with one study by the UK’s Durham University indicating that this was the case, albeit at the cost of longer hours, and in many cases without earning more than employee counterparts.
Being self-employed should never mean compromising on health though, and taking out private medical insurance from a specialist business provider is an option many SME and-self employed businesses go for.
Strategies for stress management
There are a lot of resources on the web for stress management (such as the NHS Mindzone site) as well as in book format, with guides to mindfulness meditation particularly popular at the moment There are also professionally taught courses in stress management too, with MIND also providing open access training in various aspects of mental health awareness.
Being able to identify stress is an important step in finding ways to manage it, and there’s a distinction between stress and pressure. Pressure is a healthy mechanism that drives us to get out of bed in the morning, to pass exams, and to perform our best in job interviews. On the other hand, stress occurs when there is too much pressure and can cause symptoms including headaches, muscle pain, dzziness, sweating, and breathlessness, among others. Stress in itself isn’t believed to have direct health risks attached, although some coping mechanisms such as overeating or alcohol use can cause problems, and have attendant health risks.
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Jen Jones writes on workplace health and wellbeing. You can add her to your circles on Google+.