This month is Stress Awareness Month which raises awareness of the causes of stress and looks at ways to reduce it. In this blog, I’d like to highlight what DIO is doing to support colleagues through stress and share some of my own tips on how I manage stress.
What is stress?
I was looking up the definition of ‘Stress’ and found one that states it is “any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.” This got me thinking that stress has got a PR problem. It’s bad press.
We all experience stress daily and it’s a perfectly normal part of the human experience, for example the alarm going off first thing in the morning is a natural moment of stress for everyone. Stress is there as a highly important feature in our bodies that helps us to understand that what we’re dealing with requires extra effort. So, it’s a highly necessary tool. But if “stress” is a warning light in our bodies then it’s the way we choose to respond to it that can have an impact on our well-being.
In some situations, the signs of stress can be relatively minor, some muscles ache after a long run or a new workout, tiredness occurs after a long day of video calls or we may have a restless night before a big event the next day or even after the event happens. Some signs can be noticeable, such as a racing heartbeat, headaches or severe anxiety. Although stress is inevitable (and not always negative, I know I keep saying that but I’m doing the PR job for positive stress the best I can!) we can all take steps to manage it. This is about us trying to take control of stress rather than letting it control us.
How to manage stress
Here is some advice that I found that I wanted to share with you.
- Learn to recognise the difference between low and high level stress - spotting the triggers of high stress for you could be a great start to finding ways to get a handle on your stress when it starts to happen. One of my most important tools in higher stress situations is to talk to friends and colleagues about what’s happening. It’s great to get their point of view and just have someone that listens. At DIO, we hold Mental Wellbeing Coffee and Chat sessions to discuss difficult challenges we have faced. These are regularly attended by 250 colleagues and a great way to share our experiences and stresses together.
- Try to get regular exercise - this helps both your brain and body to both deal with stress that’s already happening and prepare you for something that may occur in future. The great thing is that you can tailor this exercise to your own circumstances. Running, walking, using weights, gardening and even cleaning count towards your daily exercise! Exercise can include mental activity too, so a crossword, sudoku or puzzle is great for helping to reduce stress. At DIO, the wellbeing team have developed bespoke tools and programmes to support all our peoples’ physical wellbeing including an individual and team challenge we put together for January which saw over 1000 colleagues challenging themselves to make time for physical activity.
- Take care of yourself - try to create and set aside some time to do whatever it is you really enjoy doing. For me it’s getting out for a walk in the countryside. For you, it could be reading, going to the gym or taking part in a hobby such as baking. At DIO we’ve tried to create a safe space culture so that people are getting the right disconnection from work at the start and end of a day as well as taking breaks throughout it.
- Practice mindfulness – Just 10 minutes of reflection time a day can help rest your mind and help you to become more awake and conscious through the rest of the day. The NHS and Mind offer some great tips on how to practise mindfulness to reduce stress.
Stress can be a different experience for everyone but I hope that these tips are helpful to you in managing stressful situations.