One in four people in the UK currently suffer from a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression being the most common causes, which can be triggered by work related stress. But is enough work being put in to combat this?
Taking the police force as an example, in the last two years, 139 officers were absent from duty for one week or more for ‘psychological reasons’.
In this same time, 147 officers in Lincolnshire Police officer were attacked whilst on duty – could the psychological effects of this have contributed to those people having to take time off work?
Assistant Chief Officer Andrew White, said: “Officers and staff are exposed on a regular basis to situations that are extremely troubling both physically and mentally.
“As with any organisation, we have staff and officers absent from work with psychological reasons.
“Whilst regrettable it is not surprising as everyday police officers and staff undertake duties that are dangerous and distressing to ensure that the rest of the public can be safe at all times.”
What causes work stress?
The most common contributing factors to workplace stress include work overload, poor equipment and resources, work-life balance and work related aggression and violence (including bullying).
Steve Skinner, Clinical Lead for steps2chance talking therapies service at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “Work related stress and mental health problems often go together and stress can worsen the feelings of sadness or anxiety that people otherwise would be able to manage themselves.”
Common emotional and physical symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress include:
- Feeling sad, upset and low. Some people describe feeling numb or nothing.
- Feeling anxious, nervous, scared, stressed and frustrated.
- Feeling irritable and snappy with others.
- Feeling tired.
- Lacking motivation, energy and interest in things, even things that you usually enjoy.
- Worrying about things, this could be specifically be related to your course, essays or revision, but it may also be about other areas of your life as well.
- Feeling overwhelmed by the things that you think you need to achieve or get done.
- Lacking in concentration and being unable to focus. Finding it difficult to remember things.
- Changes to appetite, it may be that you have lost your appetite, or that you are comfort eating.
- Changes to your sleep, it may be that you are not able to get to sleep or stay asleep, or that you are finding that you are wanting to sleep too much
Overcoming work stress
Employers can support their staff with managing and preventing stress by improving conditions at work and making some adjustments to help the person manage the problem.
Some of the key things that will support wellbeing include positive team culture, supportive managers and keeping staff involved and informed about organisational changes.
Steve Skinner said: “If someone is experiencing stress at work they can try different coping techniques including mindfulness, learning to ask for help and saying no, adopting a positive mind set and most of all being honest about how they feel to people they work with.”
Assistant Chief Officer Andrew White, added on behalf of Lincolnshire Police: “As part of our commitment to help keep people well we offer advice and support through our occupational health services, and holistically through our wellbeing agenda.
“When officers and staff experience distress or trauma, for example, investigating child sexual abuse or attending a fatal road traffic incident, we have a trauma risk management programme (TRiM).
“A supervising officer will ensure that all staff are assessed and the appropriate help is provided.”
Tips on how to beat stress:
- What is it that stresses you at work – could you ask others for help or delegate? Maybe there’s some additional training that would benefit you? Most of all speak to your manager to make them aware of how you feel.
- Look after your own health, plan regular breaks in your work day and time off work throughout the year.
- Be organised as this will help to reduce your stress levels. Don’t overcommit yourself or try to cram too much into your work day. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
- Don’t feel guilty if you have to say no to someone at work.
- Be mindful of what you eat as balanced diet will support your wellbeing. Don’t eat in rush or on the go. Do not drink alcohol as a way of coping with stress.
- Physical activity is a great way to manage stress – whether you walk, cycle, run or do yoga – as long as you enjoy it – keep doing it.
- Make time for your hobbies and things you enjoy. When we’re stressed we often lose the sight of bigger picture and what matters in life.
- Seek professional help if you have tried self-help and you still feel that stress is taking over your life.