Would it surprise you to learn that the biggest health reason why people have to take time off work is stress? Although the number of days lost has fallen over the last decade, the Health And Safety Executive estimate that 10.8 million days are lost every year in the UK because of stress. On average, each person suffering with anxiety, stress or depression takes 27 days away from the office. It’s a massive problem, and something that many employers seem unwilling to deal with. So how do you recognise the signs of stress and deal with it before it becomes an issue?
Stress is often described alongside the related conditions of anxiety and depression as they are all interlinked. By the time you notice that you are feeling under stress, the symptoms have been building up for quite some time. Some of the early indicators that you may be suffering from stress include irritability, anxiety, change in eating habits, headaches, worrying about work and loss of self-esteem. Not everyone suffering with stress has the same symptoms, as every case is highly individual.
Once you have recognised that you are suffering from stress, the next step along the process is trying to work out what it is in your life which is making you stressed. It may not be your job at all; you may be looking after an elderly parent, or dealing with a newborn baby who is awake half the night.
Keeping a diary which details what you have done on a day to day basis and when you have felt stressed will help identify what triggers the symptoms in your case. Simple lifestyle changes such as making the effort to eat healthy, balanced meals rather than grabbing a takeaway, stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol and taking more exercise can also help combat low-level stress and make you feel better about yourself too. If you feel that symptoms are severe, take a trip to the doctor to explore what other help may be available.
One of the main factors for stress in our everyday lives is that we never seem to get time just to “be”. Whether it’s the kids with constant requests for snacks, or the mobile phone buzzing to let you know you’ve got yet another text from the office, there are more demands on us than ever. It’s not often easy to find time to explore our own interests, but even a few hours a week can make a huge difference.
Leave the mobile at home and go for a long walk in the park, a swim or do an aerobics class at the gym. If being creative is more your sort of thing, put some woodworking tools like a mitre box on your wish list and start planning your first project. Once you’ve got your mitre box and other tools together, make a regular space in the diary to retreat into the garage or spare room to spend some time switched off from the pressures of everyday life and doing something you really enjoy.
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