Stress is a fact of modern life. Surveys show that one of the biggest causes of stress in today’s society is the work place. This article will be looking at some of its causes and simple ways to relieve and manage stress.

Everyone works with some degree of stress in their lives. Pressure is part and parcel of work and can have a positive effect that helps to keep us motivated. Some stress focuses your attention to meeting your targets or working to a set deadline, but too much stress can be detrimental to your efforts and can lead to a variety of problems and illnesses.

My recruitment role brings me into constant contact with people dealing with some degree of stress. The economic situation can effect most peoples stress levels, whether it is a case of the worry of redundancy or those out of work seeking new employment.

Even people in employment are having to cope with higher levels of stress. Factors include having to work to higher sales targets, pressure to improve conversion levels, working more hours to cover empty desks, etc.

Management is not exempt from this pressure. Situations include having to ensure that company targets are being met, sometimes with their teams being depleted from redundancies. We have spoken to managers who are short staffed and want to recruit but budgets are frozen. Management are not safe from redundancy and stress levels are probably higher as they are more privy to information regarding the financial state of the company.

The world of recruitment is also feeling the pressure. We have so many highly experienced travel professionals registered that would be a great benefit to most companies. It is frustrating that we can’t help everyone, so if there are any companies seeking great staff, call me now!

Excessive pressure can lead to high levels of stress, which undermines performance, is costly to employers and can make people ill. Technically ‘Stress’ is not a medical condition, but it can lead to illness. The Health & Safety Executive define stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them'.

There are numerous factors that can cause stress in the workplace. If some of these can be reduced then stress levels should fall dramatically. For example:

Prioritise your workload. Make a list of things you have to complete each day so that you can cross things off as you finish them. This allows you to see your progress as you go along so you feel a sense of achievement and physically see your work load lessening.

Learn to delegate. Pass small tasks to assistants or other team members so that you don’t feel like you have to be in multiple places at once. Too many demands on your time can be very stressful so you should also learn to say NO.

Accept your limitations. You cannot do everything at once. I arrived to work on Monday to almost 200 emails and immediately felt my stress levels rising, what a way to start the week! I just had to sit there and go through each CV dealing with other duties as they arose. It took 3 hours, but finally I had checked them all and felt better for it.

Symptoms of Stress 

Physical symptoms can include: Backache, Fatigue, Muscle tension, skin rashes, Breathing difficulties, Headaches, Chest pains, Changes in menstrual patterns, Sweating palms, dry mouth and nervous twitches (though this list is by no means exhaustive).

Behavioural symptoms can include: Absenteeism, Erratic moods, increased use of alcohol/tobacco and Loss of appetite.

Emotional symptoms can include: Anxiety, Irritability, Low self-esteem and confidence, Depression, Fear and panic, Poor sleep, Aggression, Inappropriate behaviour, Withdrawal from social contacts and Mood swings.

Stress Relief

In most workplaces, work related stress cannot be eliminated totally however you can change how you react to overly stressful factors.

I find that the best way to cope with my rising stress levels is to recognize and accept it when it happens. Understanding the early warning signs gives you the opportunity to deal with it.

There are numerous simple steps to relieve some of the stress. One is to close your eyes, take deep breaths (in through your nose and out of your mouth) and try to relax your body. The unconscious tensing of muscles adds to your stress level which in turn makes you tense up even more.

Try applying pressure to acupuncture points such as the bridge of the nose or the temples. Rub the skin lightly and imagine the tension in your head and neck floating away.

Consider your diet. Try to cut down on coffee and other stimulants like chocolate as these can add to the symptoms of stress.

Outside of the office consider starting yoga or Tai Chi (you can find techniques for both on You Tube), joining a gym or start swimming. Massages with your partner are a great way to unwind at the end of the day. Talk to your family so they understand the pressures that you are feeling, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Regardless of what job you do, it is inevitable that you will find yourself in stressful situations.

Work related stress does not have to become overwhelming in your life. Managing stress is an important skill that all employees should learn. Set aside time to deal with these problems and devise strategies to deal with your stressful situations. Talk with your manager and colleagues. Sometimes realising that others around you are also feeling the pressure helps, as you don’t feel like you are alone.

The main message is to devise strategies that allow you to cope with stress while at work rather than bringing it home with you at the end of the day. Stressful situations do not last forever. The economy will pick up, people will always want to travel, there is light at the end of the tunnel and most importantly remember you are not alone in feeling stressed. 

Jose joined New Frontiers in 2000 working a variety of roles from recruitment consultant to in-house recruiter and staff trainer and now General Manager. Jose has a wealth of travel industry experience having worked in travel for 8 years prior to joining New Frontiers with roles in retail and for a tour operator.