Managing stress for better health, greater happiness and a stronger business
Stress is a subject that is relevant to all of us - and particularly so in 2022, after all that we have experienced in the last 2 years.
What do we mean by "stress"?
When we talk about stress, we could be talking about one of two things:
- Situations or events that put pressure on us - for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don't have much control over what happens.
- Our reaction to being placed under pressure - the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.
Stress is, for all of us, a normal fact of life. We all deal, day to day, with multiple stressors – those mundane daily responsibilities that we juggle every day. Of course, sometimes we also face more significant life events, which can be acutely stressful.
Stress is something that everyone feels sometimes, and there are many stressful situations that are a normal part of daily life. Low-level feelings of stress can even be helpful or motivational.
Stress is the body's reaction to feeling under pressure, threatened or unsafe. Feeling stressed is common, it isn’t always a bad thing – it can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life; and can help prevent inertia and keep us motivated.
Too much stress, or persistent stress, can affect us emotionally and physically - especially when it feels that the factors causing stress are out of our control.
Experiencing high levels of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.
How does stress affect us?
Like most things, stress affects us all differently. There are some common signs and symptoms1 you can look out for:
- Feelings of constant worry or anxiety
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings or changes in your mood
- Irritability or having a short temper
- Difficulty relaxing
- Low self-esteem
- Eating more or less than usual
- Changes in your sleeping habits
- Using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax
- Aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
- Diarrhoea and constipation
- Feelings of nausea or dizziness
- Loss of sex drive
Why is it important that we tackle stress?
When the negative effects of stress start to have an impact on your health and wellbeing, it is important to address it quickly to prevent burnout, or common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Studies from the Mental Health Foundation, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Labour Force Survey suggest that the number of people experiencing common mental health disorders have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.
In 2020/21 there were an estimated 822,000 workers affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety2.
What is the cost of mental health to businesses?
Businesses have a legal and moral duty to provide psychologically safe and healthy workplaces – and to ensure that work is not causing or contributing to mental ill health.
The cost of mental ill health to businesses is huge – across all sectors the cost of mental ill is £1,716 per person employed per year- and in the insurance industry, this rises to £3,300 per person employed per year3. The human cost is incalculable – mental ill health effects a person’s career, their family and their life.
How can businesses make a difference?
Conscious business leaders will invest in protecting their most valuable asset- their people, by creating the conditions within every workplace where every person feels safe to talk about how they feel and what support they need. This will result in less stress, better health and more happiness for all. See how you can establish a wellbeing culture in your organisations with my webinar video - Leading the way in organisational wellbeing.
Claire Russell, CEO, Mental Health in Business. Claire worked as a business leader in the insurance industry for over 20 years before moving in to workplace mental health following her own lived experience of mental illness.
Our intention with this content is to offer insight and support on topics that our research has identified as areas of concerns for our brokers. It’s important to note we’re not medical professionals and if you feel that you or someone you know is in crisis, please seek professional help. The Samaritans can be contacted free of charge on 116 123.
1 Mental Health Foundation - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress
3 Deloitte, Mental Health and Employers, 2020.
The guidance provided is for information purposes and is general and educational in nature and does not constitute mental health advice. You are free to choose whether or not to use it and it should not be considered a substitute for seeking professional help in specific circumstances. Accordingly, Ecclesiastical and its subsidiaries shall not be liable for any losses, damages, charges or expenses, whether direct, indirect, or consequential and howsoever arising, that you suffer or incur as a result of or in connection with your use or reliance on the information provided in this video except for those which cannot be excluded by law.
We acknowledge that an individual's experience with mental health issues or concerns is unique to that individual. If you have any questions personally or in connection with co-workers, family or friends, we encourage you to contact your General Practitioner or your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have one as part of your benefits plan. Where links are provided to other sites and resources of third parties, these links are provided for your information only. Ecclesiastical is not responsible for the contents of those sites or resources.