Over the past twelve months we have all experienced stress at varying levels as we have travelled through the Covid pandemic. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.’   

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) states that over 11 million working days are lost each year due to stress at work and the pandemic has both added to workplace stress and created new challenges that most people have never previously experienced. 

As many of us now return to our workplaces after prolonged periods of working from home, we may experience concerns about how we will manage this new environment, the changing demands and rebuilding of relationships. Bernard Looney, CEO of BP recently told The Guardian that, “Work patterns are changing… we expect to move towards a more hybrid work style which will be a mixture of home and office”. The past year has been a mixed bag of experiences for many people and it is fair to say, some of us have relished the home working experience, whilst others have found it hugely challenging; juggling work with caring responsibilities, home-schooling and the blurring of the work and home life all adding to the pressures of living through a pandemic.   

As we enter a new world of ‘hybrid working’, we may face new challenges and pressures.  Global employee experience think tank, Leesman, has warned of ‘sentiment drift’ as people struggle with the ever-changing work landscape, new rules and they predict that fatigue and stress will become problematic.   

So, how can we manage our stress and look after our wellbeing over the coming months as society begins to re-open and our work lives continue to shift? Here are some ideas you might consider to support your wellbeing. 

  1. Be alert to the signs that you, or someone around you, is suffering from stress. You might notice changes in work performance, or emotional signs such as irritability or crying, or it might be a change in behaviour such as withdrawal or aggression, or changes in routine.  You might also notice physical signs such as tiredness, headaches or muscle tension. Be prepared to talk about it.
  2. Look at your triggers; is there a situation, a relationship or task that heightens your stress?  Consider how you can best manage those situations in a positive way.
  3. Focus your attention on the things you can control or deal with, and as little time and energy as possible on the things beyond your control.
  4. Speak to your manager about how you’re feeling and seek some support from your organisation. Many workplaces are supportive and will look at flexibility and may provide access to help through private healthcare, employee assistance programmes and counselling support.
  5. Consider your habits and routines and identify any changes you can make to support your wellbeing and reduce your stress – exercise, socialising and taking time for a hobby or enjoyable activity can all help.
  6. Make some space in your day for relaxation. Fishing, golf, art, music, meditation, yoga, mindfulness and guided visualisation are all methods that you might try to unwind, de-stress and look after your emotional wellbeing.
  7. Plan your day, set some structure, and keep to a routine. You might need to adapt your previous routine at work as things change, so try to remain flexible and open to trying new ways of working.
  8. Make time to keep in touch with colleagues, don’t miss out on the water cooler chat. It is important to be social, whether you are meeting in person, or virtually.
  9. Don’t forget to take a break. It is easy to lose track of time when working from home, without interruptions, but planning breaks will give time for you to re-energise, re-focus and boost your energy levels.
  10. Make the most of hybrid working. Sometimes in an office environment it is easy to be distracted, with many questions coming your way and your focus broken, plan your week so that when you are working from home you are able to work on those tasks that need a lot of focus and attention. Keep office time for collaboration, discussion and reconnecting.

Hybrid working will become a new norm for many people and over this past year it has become apparent that many of us can work from home successfully. However, we are still in the early stages of getting it right and there will undoubtedly be a period of transition. Look after your wellbeing and manage your stress during this time by being open to change, adopting a growth mindset and keeping talking.

For more information on our courses covering all our wellbeing topics, including looking after wellbeing in a dynamic or hybrid working environment, adopting a flexible mindset and coping with change, visit here or contact us on learning@islelisten.im

Stress is something we all live with and experience daily, some stress (eustress) is good for us, it’s the type of stress that gives us our ‘get up and go’ factor, it’s the stress that we need to take on new challenges and step out of our comfort zone. If we just had to contend with this type of stress we would be thriving and we would be able to look at life’s unpredictability with vigour and a positive mindset. You can learn more about eustress in our online guide to Supporting your Mental Health.

Unfortunately, there is also harmful stress (Distress). This is the type of stress when things start to get ‘on top of us’ or we feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with tasks, multiple events and challenging times.

The two types of stress go hand in hand. It’s sometimes difficult to identify what type of stress we’re encouraging as a result of the unpredictable challenges we are faced with in life from hour-to-hour and day to day. It’s important to be able to stand back and look at how we’re dealing with things. If we find we are struggling or encouraging the wrong type of stress, we need to look at ways of taking back control and encourage the use of some coping tools and techniques.

One such coping tool/technique that can help us during unprecedented times is embracing the ‘Blue spaces’ around us.

We are fortunate to live on a beautiful and relatively safe and secure Island with open green spaces and beautiful views of the sea. In a recently publish article by Elle Hunt of The Guardian newspaper, it was stated that “Coastal environments have been shown to improve our health, body and mind”, and concluded that doctors could maybe start issuing nature-based prescriptions to help cope with the harmful stress we experience (Distress).

We have long-known that getting outside into the fresh air for exercise has a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing, and we certainly don’t need a prescription from a GP to do so. But we do need to be able to identify when we are not coping well and to be able to take back control and start making small changes.

I love being around water and swimming, beachcombing, the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves and the sense of freedom that comes with it. I enjoy the escape to a place where my ancestors may have had a similar experience.

Throughout my life I have always been drawn to the water. Wherever I have travelled and lived, one thing stands out, I always found myself close to the sea. Maybe it was a subconscious decision or maybe something else, but I have always found an inner calm whenever I’m near water or ‘blue space’ is found.

Here on our beautiful island it is a similar story – I love splashing in the water with my kids and seeing them smile and laugh which makes me happy; whether going for a walk through rivers on an adventure, or simply walking on the beach to find our favourite pebbles or shells; perhaps looking for something that doesn’t belong on a beach and creating memories that may last a lifetime.

We are lucky to live in a place where we have such incredible blue spaces on our doorstep. I will leave you to make up your own mind on whether it should be GP driven but I can say that the theory and studies do certainly indicate the benefits to our wellbeing and managing harmful stress. Living on an island, I suspect deep down, we all know that already, but we just need reminding occasionally.

Here’s some ideas for making the most of our very own ‘Blue Space’

  1. Visit an old favourite – going to a place that triggers fun memories will boost your mood.
  2. Bilateral stimulation – just getting out of the house and going for a walk gives your mind time to process and forget all the troubles you may be experiencing.
  3. Serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin boost – swimming, walking or jogging in a blue space will give you a huge boost of the “good chemicals” that help lift our mood.
  4. Beachcomb – look for something special on the beach and you are never let down, many treasures are found, valuable or not, which connect you to nature.
  5. 3 pieces of plastic – pick up three pieces of rubbish and take them back to a bin, this is rewarding and will boost your sense of wellbeing as well as being great for the environment. Find out more about our Fill a Fish joint initiative with Beach Buddies and Suntera.
  6. Sea swim – a dip in the sea stimulates the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair. Another boost for serotonin and dopamine.
  7. Fishing – apart from the health benefits of eating fish, research shows that fishing can help combat depression and anxiety along with increasing patience and concentration.
  8. Less air pollution – the area around the sea is healthier for us as negative ions speed up your ability to absorb oxygen and balance serotonin levels.
  9. Sunlight – being by the sea boosts vitamin D, changes the body temperature and as a result helps you sleep better.
  10. It’s fun – no matter if it’s blowing a hoolie, raining sideways or glorious sunshine, being outdoors and by the sea is fun! We should all be allowed a little bit of time where we can be kids again and just have a giggle.

As part of Stress Awareness Month we wanted to help you to understand how we manage stress. 

We can view the way we manage stress like a tap and bucket, with the tap being the things that create stress and the bucket being our ability to carry and cope with stress. 

Stress is a normal part of life and it’s not always bad, we need a certain level of stress to encourage us to take action and get things done. 

However, if there are too many stressors in our life and we don’t have effective coping strategies in place, our stress levels can become harmful, making us feel overwhelmed and like we’re about to ‘burst’. 

1.

Stress is a normal part of life – we can view the way we manage stress like a tap and bucket, the tap being the things that create stress and the bucket being our ability to carry stress.

Some stress can be good and some can be bad, but both take up space in our Stress Bucket!

2.

There may be times when the amount of demands/stressors that we’re experiencing fills our bucket to a level that is harmful, and can eventually cause us to feel overwhelmed and like we’re about to ‘burst’.

3.

Coping abilities/strategies help us to let go of the unnecessary stressors that fill up our bucket.

It’s important to remember that we can’t flush everything out of our Stress Bucket – we need to be able to tolerate a certain level of stress.

4.

Some coping strategies are less effective at helping us to deal with stress, and although these strategies might provide some temporary relief (such as comfort eating), they aren’t healthy in the longer-term.

5.

Healthy coping strategies help us to keep our stress at a manageable level over the long-term – some healthy strategies are: rest and relaxation, talking to someone you trust, or doing something you enjoy (i.e. exercise or art).

6.

If you do find that your stress-levels reach a point where you feel overwhelmed and are struggling to cope on your own, this is when it’s important to communicate and seek support.

Take some time to think about the good and bad sources of stress in your life – doing this helps us to identify and prioritise the stressors we can control, to manage how much stress we’re placing on ourselves. You can also think about what coping strategies you might use, are these effective in helping to relieve stress, or might they actually be creating more stress?