Stress is the body’s natural defence against dangers, it triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ mode. This releases a large amount of hormones into the body causing an increase in muscle tension, blood pressure and sweating. There are different environmental factors that cause stress, these are known as stressors. In 2020, a UK survey showed that the most common stressor was work and money. A 2018 study showed an association between work related stress and coronary heart disease.
Everyone reacts differently to stress, some experience several stressors at once which lead to a severe stress reaction, whilst others have a strong response to a single stressor. Even positive significant changes can be stressors for some people. For example, having a baby, moving house or getting a promotion. This is because they require a need for adaption and new responsibilities.
Types of Stress
Acute Stress is short-term but it is more common and tends to develop when people consider pressure of past events or upcoming challenges. Acute stressors tend to have clear and immediate solutions. It can cause headaches and an upset stomach but if repeated can become chronic.
Chronic stress develops of a period of time and makes it difficult for the body to return to normal hormone levels. Events which may induce this is ongoing poverty, an unhappy marriage or a traumatic event experienced earlier in life. Whilst suffering from chronic stress people can’t see a way to avoid stressors meaning they stop seeking solutions. This can cause type 2 diabetes, increased blood pressure, heart disease and depression. In severe cases this can lead to a breakdown.
In order to diagnose stress a GP will ask a patient about symptoms and life events. This can include methods such as questionnaires, biomechanical measures or physiology techniques.
A GP is unlikely to prescribe medication unless it is to treat an underlying health condition such as depression. Self-help and therapies are the most common type of treatment.
These help by either removing the stressor, altering views of the stressor or lowering the effects of the stressor on the body.
- Reducing intake of alcohol, drugs and caffeine – these substances can make stress worse
- Exercise – releases endorphins which are the body’s natural painkiller and so they increase the feeling of well-being
- Breathe – this helps to slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation
- Nutrition – a poor diet can lead to ill health and additional stress
- Prioritise – focus on urgent tasks and be proud of the things you have achieved throughout the day
- Talk – discuss with family, friends and colleagues how you’re feeling this will help to reduce the feeling of isolation.
Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
Work is the UK’s biggest stressor so understanding how to deal with it is important. It’s important that you understand what is causing you stress at work and you should then let your employer know of these. Once your employer knows of this they may be able to suggest reasonable adjustments. Your employer should be happy to help as they should want to have healthy work environment that increases employee well-being and therefore employee motivation and productivity.