A couple of weeks ago, we published the first in a new series of Sheriff Construction blogs which focus on mental health and associated issues.

Continuing the theme, this week we’re talking about stress.

Stress is defined by the HSE as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them. It is the body’s natural response to a demanding situation’.

Taking that on board, we think there are three main things to say about stress:

  1. Stress isn’t always the bad guy. In small doses, stress is useful – it can keep us mentally alert, motivated and help us to perform well under pressure. However, when that dosage of stress increases to a level that’s simply ‘too much’, our minds, bodies, work and relationships can all pay the price. If left unattended, excess stress can lead to serious mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
  2. Almost everybody suffers from stress at some point. In the largest study of stress levels in the UK (undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation in 2018), 74% of people said they had been stressed to the point of feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope within the past year. In our sector, close to 7 in 10 construction workers report suffering from workplace stress and over 200 construction lives are lost each year due to suicide.
  3. Stress doesn’t have to take over your life. If stress is having a negative effect on you (e.g. you feel overwhelmed, frazzled or like you’re constantly running on emergency mode), there are actions you can take to reduce these symptoms and bring better balance to your life.

Here are some quick tips and advice that we’ve picked up from MIND and other mental health charities.

Managing stress

Work out your stress triggers

Many different things could be triggering stress in your life. It might be something like having to confront aggressive behaviours or a particular challenge; it could be having to adapt to change (even if that change is something positive like a promotion); it could be a response to loss or grief; or it might be something like the constant connectivity with work that many of us now have in our lives. In the construction industry, long hours, physically demanding workloads, repeated high-risk tasks and tight margins have all also been cited as stress triggers. By really thinking about what is triggering your stress, you will then have a better chance of working out how to respond and manage those triggers.

Sort out your worries

Stress frequently comes from having multiple worries going around your head (maybe financial, work, family, health etc). If this is you, divide up your worries into the things you can actually do something about (either immediately or in the near future) and those that you can’t really change at the moment. Simply doing this will help you feel like you’re in better control and can relieve that feeling of being ‘unable to cope’.

Get organised

If you’re overwhelmed by everything you have to do, that stress can sometimes block you from doing anything! Whether it’s work or personal tasks that need addressing, again you can take control by making a list of all those jobs and prioritising them. While you may still have to get through some challenging or laborious tasks, with an actual list in your hands, you could try alternating them with tasks that interest you more. The key is to tackle one job at a time!

Be active

Physical activity often helps people feel calmer, stronger and better able to cope with emotional stress. The main thing is to choose something you enjoy. Whether that’s a high energy workout, a walk with the dog, playing a sport, dancing or gardening, all of these type of activities can have hugely beneficial effects.

Take regular breaks

When you do feel that things are getting on top of you, it’s time for a break. Try taking a short stroll or making a hot drink.

List your achievements

We often get bogged down by going from one task to another without pausing to think about everything we’ve achieved. However, making an actual note of your achievements and reading that list whenever you need a boost can be a great way of reducing your focus on whatever is causing stress in your life.

Get a different perspective

Discussing a problem with someone else might not take the problem away but getting that different perspective could present some new ideas as to how to deal with it. Sharing your thoughts and feeling ‘listened to’ can also help you to feel calmer.

We hope these tips about dealing with stress are useful but would love to hear your ideas too.

Share your thoughts with us over on Facebook.


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