“you ok hun?”

Goodbye, farewell 2020!

With this past year being extremely eventful / unknown / stressful / crazy / lonely due to the ‘pandemic’, it’s unsurprising that for a lot of us our stress levels have gone through the roof. If this was because you were trying to be a “part-time teacher” while working your day job from home, having to decamp from your office and colleagues and face endless days at home alone to work, or being furloughed and left with seemingly endless days to fill, or it could simply be the general stress of day to day living in a pandemic while trying to keep your work / family / life afloat, suffering through redundancy or sickness of a relative, the list this year seems never ending……

Thank goodness that over the past couple of years society has begun to change its view on mental health and there has never been more focus on people’s well being than during the recent months. There has been so much positive and encouraging progress in raising awareness through increased news and social media coverage. Although, undoubtedly there’s still lots more work to do.

In recent research almost one third of UK employees do not feel comfortable talking to their manager about mental health problems for fear of being judged, studies have found in excess of nine million workers “dread” discussing their mental wellbeing with their superior and one fifth fear they will be ostracised, while another 36 per cent think confiding in their boss would hamper their career.

After one very long year we have gathered some facts and information which could help you with stress or help you to identify stress in a colleague, friend or family member so we can all help each other during this tough time:


What is stress and what are the symptoms?

Stress is our bodies natural response to certain situations and events. Our bodies react by releasing powerful hormones and our immune system heightens to help us to respond quickly.

Everyone has a different resilience to stress and if the pressure or situation is relatively short-lived we often don’t experience any serious and lasting effects. However, when our exposure to stress becomes too frequent, intense or prolonged it can put so much wear and tear on the body that we are left overwhelmed and unable to cope. This type of stress can have serious mental and physical effects on the body.


Symptoms of stress: 

The MHF’s research has proved that stress has a negative effect on mental health. 51% of stress sufferers reported feeling depressed, 61% reported anxiety, 32% revealed it caused them to self-harm and 16% had suicidal thoughts. 

Stress doesn’t just affect your mental health, there are also physical symptoms such as; sleep and memory issues, a change in eating habits such as comfort eating, you may be less likely to exercise, more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol or drugs. In the most extreme cases, long term stress can cause problems with the gastrointestinal system and can bring on IBS and stomach ulcers, cardiovascular disease and lower the immune system contributing to poor physical health and lower life expectancy.


How to spot stress in a colleague / friend / family member:

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms:

  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Other mental or emotional health problems

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)


Stress in the workplace:

We spend a large proportion of our time at work and although it’s proven that good work can be beneficial to good mental health, work has been identified as a major cause of Stress. A staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK This is why tackling stress in the workplace must become a major priority of UK Businesses.

Causes of workplace stress have been attributed to long working hours, staff cuts, large workloads and personal difficulties with managers. It’s reported that 59% of employees take work calls outside of hours and 55% send and respond to work emails while not at work. It is of paramount importance for workers to strike the right work / life balance and it can be incredibly difficult, especially if the employee holds a high-pressured position. With stress comes an increase in employee sickness levels, more lost time, lower productivity and a higher workload on other colleagues, not to mention the increase of employee turnover. This highlights why it is important for employers to recognise stress in the workplace and proves why it’s much more cost effective to tackle stress at the root.


How to prevent workplace stress:

As an organisation, you have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for your employees. There are a number of key actions you can take to help identify, prevent and treat stress in your business.

Create transparency and take away the stigma throughout the organisation,encourage staff to speak out about their concerns and experiences and give your employees confidence that their mental health is being taken seriously.

Train your managers to spot signs of stress. Be familiar with the key symptoms and be confident of offering support or signposting expert help. The company should play an active role in managing stress levels at work.

Always carry out back to work interviews. They create a safe space for the employee to talk about their experience with stress and will give you valuable information on how to improve the workplace environment to prevent further absence. Initiating a steady stream of conversation will create an honest approach to managing mental health and will give your employee confidence when it comes to confiding in someone.

Try to remove the pressure from employees. A healthy work / life balance is hugely important, encourage workers to turn off emails and not take calls during evenings and weekends which will help workers to ‘switch off’. Reward them for staying late or working hard by offering an early finish on a Friday.

Incentivise healthy habits, it has been widely reported that leading and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle can relieve symptoms of stress. It is important to remember that stress at work can follow us home and a better life/work balance can really help to increase productivity.

polkadotfrog are committed to improving the working environment and increasing thewareness around mental health.