Did you know, today is National Stress Awareness Day?

Stress Awareness Day was established by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) in 1998. The initiative aims to raise awareness about stress, its triggers and impacts, and the ways it can be managed, while promoting health and wellbeing for individuals and companies. 

Why Stress Awareness Day is Important

Everyone experiences stress; it’s a natural response to fear, crisis and excessive demands placed on the mind and body. While stress is normal, an overwhelming level of stress can lead to change in behaviour, fatigue, physical illness, mental illness and can negatively impact one’s work, relationships and life.

As individuals, or even leaders of a team, we simply cannot improve health and wellbeing if we fail to acknowledge and address the unhealthy stresses we, and our team members endure. Now more than ever, people are experiencing immense levels of stress – we’re in the middle of a health crisis! So much has/is changing, fear is apparent and demands are greater than ever.

Sadly, many people keep quiet about the stress they’re under and are afraid to ask for help – this is especially true for employees. Perhaps because feeling stressed has always ‘come with the territory of hard work’ – which is a societal narrative that’s completely untrue – or there’s just no time and place for these conversations to be had.

But it’s awareness days like these that remind us all (as individuals and leaders) that we are all emotional beings – we all experience stress, and sometimes we’ll need help, and other times we’ll need to do the helping. It’s days like these that open the floor for discussion and starts us off on our journey to improved health and wellbeing.

How to ‘Celebrate’ Stress Awareness Day with a Remote Team 

  • Remind your people of stress awareness day and what it means

Acknowledge this day – let your team know what stress awareness day means (perhaps email them an article or send them a personal email), highlight the possible triggers, the importance of recognising their feelings, and emphasise how important it is to ask for help. This shows your people that you’re not oblivious to what they may be feeling and that your care about them and their wellbeing

  • Be transparent with your own feelings

These are difficult times for all of us, even for you! You may be a leader, and you may be used to wearing a smile and a coat of positivity even when things are tough, but hey, you’re human too. There’s no way you’re not feeling a little stressed or at least feeling some type of way towards the things that are going on in the world. And your people know this.

In times like these, especially, your people want to see your humanity, they want you to show emotions that are not just positive all the time – but that are real. When you’re transparent about how you feel, and say “hey, you know what, I’m feeling really stressed this week, I’m going to do X or Y to prioritise my mental and physical health and overcome this feeling so that it doesn’t affect my work”, it not only makes them feel less alone, but teaches them how to overcome their own stress and nurture their health and wellbeing. 

  • Open the floor for discussions about stress and wellbeing

As I mentioned, it’s days like these that open the floor for discussion and communication. In fact, communication is the most valuable takeaway and if there’s any reason to ‘celebrate’ this awareness day, it’s this. Communication between you and your team is absolutely crucial during this time – if your team cannot speak, ask for help or discuss their concerns you’re going to have a problem with employee engagement and wellbeing. Use this day to remind your team that you’re available to them, that you want to support them and that you care about how they feel, and their wellbeing. Perhaps set up a virtual meet up and share your tips for dealing with stress, and tips for improving wellbeing.

Employee Stress and COVID-19

We at Inpulse have conducted a few research studies this year to find out how employees in the UK and worldwide have really been feeling. Although it’s no surprise that employees are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation and more, we wanted hard-data that could give us, our clients and potential clients an accurate, robust understanding of how the current circumstances have impacted employees.  We were certainly not expecting the results we got. In one study we discovered a 240% rise in employee anxiety from the same period last year (May 2019) to May 2020. We saw stress show up as the next most dominant negative emotion at work followed by isolation.

With this second lockdown being in winter, and therefore making it more challenging for people to physically exercise or comfortably spend time outdoors, we expect a significant drop in employee mental health and wellbeing. This is why we urge companies to be the support their people so desperately need – and it begins with communication!

Have you seen our list of Engagement and Wellbeing Surveys?