Stress – there’s too much of it about these days
One topic that we read quite a lot about in the health pages is the incidence of stress, and there are lots of news stories that refer to studies and surveys done for mental health charities indicating that stress seems to be on the increase. In 2012 the UK newspapers reported that the frequency of instances where people were admitted to hospital for stress-related conditions had risen. And it hadn’t just risen by an ignorable amount. The rise, described as “sharp”, was a full 7% over a 12 month period of time. There aren’t any data regarding the reasons for the rise in stress, but one plausible suggestion is that it’s related to the recession. Stress was already known to be common, in fact mental health charity Mind states that one in 6 people in the UK workplace is suffering from depression, anxiety or stress at any one time.
Stress – the associated health risks
As the experts often make clear, stress in itself isn’t the problem here. The BBC’s health website page on the subject puts it like this:
“Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you the vitality and zest to do all sorts of things.”
In other words – small amounts of stress actually motivate us to do a whole range of things such as pass exams, and progress in our careers. But when people some people experience too much stress, there can be the risk that unhealthy ways of dealing with it are employed, such as overeating, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol.
And when stress isn’t dealt with, some of the unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking or overeating can increase the risk of heart disease. So, while stress doesn’t pose a risk to health on its own, it’s best to make sure you are managing it effectively in ways that aren’t unhealthy.
In many organisations, as part of a wider workplace wellbeing strategy, there is a greater focus on mental health. For anyone looking to get the basic information on this topic, the UK government’s HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website has useful e- book downloads for workplace stress management. The HSE also defines ‘Management Standards for work related stress’ thus: the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where the risks from work related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.
On the individual employee level, there are plenty of ways to help with stress management – many of which are commonsense healthy behaviours such as getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet and so on. One of the most useful ways for people to manage stress is to identify stress triggers and modify responses accordingly. Having insight into the causes of stress can be enormously helpful in finding personal strategies to deal with it.
Jen Jones is a blogger and health writer on office wellbeing topics, including company health insurance and workplace nutrition