According to Health and Safety Executive in 2021-2022, 1.8 million people suffered with a work-related illness, and 914,000 people were suffering with work related stress, depression or anxiety. This has added up to 17 million working days lost. But how can we recognise the signs of stress.
Stress is a common experience for many people. It arises when we perceive challenges or threats in our environment and our body responds by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare us to face the challenge (fight) or flee from it (flight). While this response can be helpful in acute, short-term situations, chronic stress can have detrimental effects on our physical and emotional health. Recognizing the signs of stress on the body is crucial in order to address and manage it effectively.
Here are some of the key signs:
1. Physical symptoms of stress:
Headaches: Frequent tension headaches can be a sign of prolonged stress.
Digestive Issues: Upset stomach, diarrhoea, and constipation can be linked to stress.
Muscle Tension and Pain: Especially in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Fatigue: Feeling overly tired, even after a full night’s sleep.
Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Weakened Immune System: More frequent colds and infections
Change in Libido: A decreased sexual desire.
Jaw Clenching or Teeth Grinding: Especially during sleep.
2. Cognitive symptoms of stress:
Memory Problems: Difficulty recalling information or concentrating.
Constant Worrying: Racing thoughts or feeling overwhelmed.
Poor Judgement: Making hasty decisions without considering consequences.
Pessimism: A persistent negative outlook on life.
3. Emotional symptoms of stress:
Mood Swings: Rapid shifts from happiness to sadness.
Irritability: Getting annoyed easily.
Feeling Overwhelmed: A sense that you can’t cope or handle the pressure.
Depression: Prolonged feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness.
Anxiety: Excessive nervousness, fear, or a feeling of impending doom.
4. Behavioural symptoms of stress:
Appetite Changes: Overeating or not eating enough.
Procrastination: Avoiding responsibilities or tasks.
Increased Alcohol, Cigarette, or Drug Consumption: Using substances as a coping mechanism.
Social Withdrawal: Avoiding social interactions or activities you once enjoyed.
5. Cardiovascular symptoms of stress:
High Blood Pressure: Elevated blood pressure levels that persist.
Rapid Heart Rate: An uncomfortably fast-beating heart.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease: Chronic stress can be a contributor to heart conditions.
The experience and expression of stress can vary among individuals. It’s essential to note that not everyone will experience all these symptoms, and some might experience other symptoms not listed here.
How you can manage stress:
Identifying the signs of stress is the first step towards managing it. Once recognized, various techniques can help alleviate stress:
Regular Exercise: Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Meditation and Deep Breathing: These can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. We recommend the Headspace app, and several of our team members use it. Their sleep programmes are fantastic.
Balanced Diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to cope with stress.
Limit Caffeine and Sugar: They can make you feel jittery and anxious.
Seek Support: Talk to a friend or consider professional counselling.
It’s essential to find what works best for you and seek help if needed. Remember, everyone experiences stress at some point, but how we manage and respond to it can make all the difference in our overall health and well-being.
Jo Blood has been working in the ergonomic office furniture industry for the last 20 years. An expert in helping people set up their workstations correctly, she has appeared on the BBC as a sitting expert, and been featured in many publications over the years, including The Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. She also provides advice to many trade publications.