What is stress?

The body responds to an emergency situation or threat by producing adrenaline, which prepares the body to flight or fight. This is a stress reaction – it is normal and natural. Although usually we do not have to fight for our lives, other everyday events, situations or stressors can cause a stress reaction.

These stressors may be different for each person and may even vary for an individual from time to time.

Stress is not a diagnosed medical illness. The symptoms of stress, which vary depending on the individual, can be physically and mentally debilitating. It is a reaction that people suffer when the pressures upon them exceed their ability to cope.

If stress isn’t managed well it could lead to an escalation of symptoms and the development of a diagnosed mental health condition, such as anxiety and depression.

Stress vs. pressure

Situations or events beyond our control may be particularly stressful. However stress is not always a negative response – some people thrive on adrenaline and take up dangerous sports or demanding jobs.

Everyone is different.

There’s no doubt that resilience, the ability not only to survive but thrive under pressure, is a key ingredient for success.

Challenging situations can only become stressful if we interpret them as stressful. Threat or thrill? Excitement or fear? Stress or pressure? It can often be a choice (Source: Lane4)

Stress and pressure are two different things. We need pressure to enable us to function and perform well. When demands are high and possibly unreasonable, we may not feel we can adequately respond to these expectations. 

We may feel out of control and overwhelmed. This is when we tend to experience stress responses. This may happen over a long period of time or in short bursts. Excessive levels of stress have been shown to lead to burnout, a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion.

Pressure vs. performance graph

       The pressure vs. performance curve demonstrates the relationship between the dimensions. Maximum pressure could lead to a stress response and consequently a mental health problem.

Contributors to mental health problems in the workplace

Some of the recognised contributors are listed below...
  • Too heavy a workload
  • Problems with the work environment or work patterns
  • Problems with colleagues or other people
  • Unclear job description
  • Job insecurity
  • Being micro-managed
  • Not being managed
  • Too much change
  • Lack of clarity over objectives
  • Lack of support from managers, peers or the organisation
If you feel that any of the contributors noted above are impacting your mental wellbeing, please speak with your manager in the first instance or contact your local Occupational Health department. 

Mind's research

Research conducted by the mental health charity, Mind, confirms that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers:

  • More than 1 in 5 (21%) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
  • 14% agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them

Tips for managing and reducing stress

Talk about your feelings opening up to those around you and feeling listened to can help you feel more supported.

Keep active it improves your confidence and helps to keep you healthy.

Eat well your brain needs a balance of nutrients to function, so a diet that is good for your physical health is likely to be good for your mental health as well.

Drink sensibly some people use alcohol to improve their mood but the effect is only temporary, so keep within the recommended limits of 14 units per week.

Keep in touch strong family relationships and good friends all help you deal with the stressors of life.

Take a breakplan something to look forward to because a change of scene and pace is good for your mental health.

Do something you are good at rediscover hobbies or take up something new. It will help improve your self esteem.

Accept who you are, as we are all different - it is much healthier to accept that you are unique than to wish you were more like someone else.

Care for othersconsider volunteer work as being needed helps us value ourselves.

Ask for help

Further reading & resources

Personal Resilience

Our learning partner, Lane4, has published a white paper on personal resilience, stress and thriving which can be found by clicking here


“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with compassion and curiosity." Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Mindfulness and associated practices have become increasingly popular in recent years and has been linked with mental wellbeing. More information can be found via the NHS Choices website – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx

Mind full or mindful image


                   Want to know more?

Mind (the mental health charity) provide some tips for everyday living; http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/stress/#.VrjIC_mLTIU

NHS general information about stress, anxiety and depression; http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/low-mood-stress-anxiety.aspx

NHS self-assessment to check your mood; http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mood-self-assessment.aspx

Guidelines on stress from The Mental Health Foundation; https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress

Useful Links

Local Minds

Mind, the mental health charity, has a network of Local Minds delivering mental health services in England and Wales. The contact details of the local Minds in close proximity to our primary UK sites can be found adjacent:

To find the Local Mind closest to you, please search via this link

Halewood                http://www.mindhalton.org.uk/ - 01928 563612

Castle Bromwich    http://www.birminghammind.org - 0121 608 8001

Solihull                     http://www.solihullmind.org.uk - 0121 742 4941/743 4237

EMC                          http://www.telford-mind.co.uk - 01952 588367

Coventry                  http://www.cwmind.org.uk/ - 024 7622 4417

Gaydon                    http://springfieldmind.org.uk/ 01789 298615

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