Stress Awareness Day – 2 November
“I’m stressed!” We’ve all said it. 2nd November marks Stress Awareness Day. But what does it mean? And what can we do about it?
The Mental Health Health Foundation reports that at some point in the last year, 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope. So why are we all not better placed to identify stress and cope better with it?
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. It is the body’s natural reaction to help us deal with pressures or threats, sometimes referred to as ‘fight or flight.’
It affects people in different ways and it is true to say that some people deal with pressure better than others. Pressure can be positive. It can help motivate and elevate performance. However, for others, stress can be detrimental, especially when prolonged. It can be mentally and physically damaging.
Stress is an increasing concern in the modern working world. High workload, tight deadlines, increased responsibility and a lack of managerial support are all contributing factors. This is why Stress Awareness Day has been created, to highlight the ways that stress can affect people and what you can do to manage your stress before it becomes a serious problem.
Health and Safety legislation provides some protection for those suffering from work-related stress and places a level of responsibility on an employer to assess risks and put in place reasonable measures to avoid risks where possible. Additionally, anti-discrimination legislation serves to eliminate the stress that may arise from behaviours linked to an individual’s protected characteristics. Other legislation sets out rights about working hours, rest breaks, and annual leave. Breaches of legislation may leave an employer liable for damages for personal injury and breaches of employment laws.
If that in itself is not an incentive for an employer to take stress seriously then reports that stress, anxiety, and depression account for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of lost working days may focus on the mind.
The key is to recognise when stress levels are getting too much and to take action before a stress-related illness occurs or leads to other health issues such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, IBS, and anti-immune conditions. Employers should remain vigilant. Changes in the behaviours of staff, such as constant worrying, irritability, tiredness, and inability to concentrate and make decisions are often warning signs. Employers should communicate with their workforce, listen to any concerns raised and provide help and support when needed. Stress shouldn’t be dismissed as an inevitable by-product of modern working life.
This blog is written by Kate Lea, Senior Solicitor for didlaw.