“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” [1] If only it was that easy to put Shakespeare’s advice into practice! In our hectic lives, most of us feel stressed from time-to-time but when there is a persistent feeling of being ‘out of control’, that’s when stress starts to take its toll on our health and wellbeing – both physically and mentally.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. There are many factors, both inside and outside of the workplace, which can lead to stress.[2] Workload – in particular tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure or responsibility – was cited as the predominant cause of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, according to a Labour Force Survey[3].

The growing awareness of work-life balance has also made us aware of the relationship between our mental and physical wellbeing and the job we do.” [4] Sometimes we can recognise the signs of stress in ourselves.Wellbeing Triangle[5] These might be changes in our behaviour: how we interact with others, or how we feel: for instance feeling withdrawn, changes in mood, or being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive This is the time to ask for support – talk to a colleague, your manager or your GP.

According to the HSE, the effects of stress have been associated with anxiety and depression, as well as heart disease, back pain and gastrointestinal illnesses. Stress isn’t an illness, but too much stress can make you ill. With 12.5 million working days lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17 [6] it’s no surprise that organisations (including the HSE, The International Stress Management Association UK, ACAS[7], TUC and CIPD) are working together to produce guidelines and advice on how to tackle the issue.[8]

By law employers have a duty to take measures to control risks from work-related stress and ensure the health and safety of employees. Although this might be daunting, there is a wealth of support and guidelines for employers to help tackle and prevent stress in the workplace. Support and advice is available for employees too – such as the guide: Working together to reduce stress at work [9] giving employees advice on work-related stress.

A key approach to preventing workplace stress is for organisations to promote employee wellbeing: Promoting well being can prevent problems from escalating and help create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive…….. and there’s growing evidence that employee wellness programmes can have a positive impact on key organisational performance indicators.” [10]
Positivity can help to reduce stress
Finally, if you reach a point when you feel overwhelmed and out of control, you can take action. Changing your mind-set to a positive one and adopting a ‘can-do’ attitude is not easy, but even having a go is a start to feeling in control. In the words of Dalai Lama[11]

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision”.


[1] Shakespeare – Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2
[2] http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/what-to-do.htm
[3] Labour Force Survey 2009/10-2011/12
[4] http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/8/n/Health-work-and-wellbeing-accessible-version.pdf P5
[5] http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/signs.htm https://isma.org.uk/about-stress/how-to-identify-stress
[6] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf
[7] http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=6073
[8] http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm
[9] http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg424.pdf
[10] https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/factsheet
[11] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/dalai_lama_446740