Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure, and can affect how you feel, think, or behave and how your body works.
Common signs of stress include anxiety, irritability, sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating. Stress can affect your work and home life.
Find out more about sources of support and how the University can help you.
What's causing your stress?
The first step in dealing with stress is to understand what is causing it. You may be feeling stressed because of a specific situation at work, or something in your home or personal life. It may be a combination of home and work pressures.
Understanding the source of stress makes it easier to explore potential solutions and support. Talking to someone can help.
Read government guidance on work-related stress
How can I help myself?
Mindfulness exercises are a great way to help you find balance. You can learn to be present in the moment, set aside things you cannot act on and focus on what's most important.
Look after your mental wellbeing
- Make time for things that you find relaxing and enjoyable.
- Talk about it. Friends, family or colleagues can cheer you up and help you find perspective.
- Remember that you are not responsible for what others do or how they feel.
- Take your tasks one at a time and establish a routine. Learn to say 'no'.
- If you don't have time for a new task, say so, or set aside something less important. Not everything needs to be done today.
Look after your physical wellbeing
Look after your physical health. Eating well and getting regular exercise can boost your mood and give you the physical resources to tackle daily life.
- Sleep is particularly important in regulating your mood.
- Reduce stimulants like alcohol and tobacco, which can make you feel more 'on edge'.
- Alcohol is a depressant and can make things seem worse than they are. Avoid the temptation to 'drink away' your troubles.
Contact Health Assured
For free, independent, practical and emotional support or counselling, you can contact our Employee Assistance scheme provided by Health Assured on 0800 028 0199.
As well as providing support and advice through the advice line, they offer a wide range of helpsheets on topics such as divorce, bereavement, health, finance and legal matters. Access the full range of support from Health Assured. Simply login with username university and password york.
The more open and honest you can be about the nature and cause of your stress, the easier it will be for the University to support you.
If you feel you can, tell your manager. Even if the stress that you are feeling is not directly related to work, your manager will be able to discuss the issue with you and guide you towards resources that may help. If you don't feel able to speak to your manager, consider speaking to their manager or to an HR Adviser.
- If you are experiencing general emotional distress you can speak to a trained member of the in-house Mental Health First Contact network who will provide immediate support and make you aware of appropriate resources or services.
- If you are a member of a trade union (UCU, Unison, Unite), you can talk to your representative who might be able to attend meetings with you and support you in developing solutions to the stress.
- Occupational Health also provide specialist advice which may help resolve difficulties with stress.
Your manager can:
- Help you identify the source of your stress. This can usually be achieved through a relatively informal discussion, but if it is difficult to know where to begin you can use an Individual Stressor Questionnaire. This lists questions relating to common causes of work-related stress which can help you and your manager understand what may be causing the problem.
- Remove or minimise the sources of stress. In some cases, a manager may be able to address the source of stress directly and remove the problem. In many cases, it may not be possible for the manager to remove the stress entirely, in which case, steps will be taken to try to address it and to support you in reducing it to a reasonable level.
- Put temporary adjustments in place. This may help you cope in the short-term while other steps are taken to remove or reduce the cause of your stress. Temporary adjustments might include: relieving you of some work tasks, considering whether leave in special circumstances may be appropriate, reducing your hours, changing where you work for a temporary period, being flexible about your start and finish times, or referring you to other sources of help.
- Produce a Wellbeing Action Plan. This formally documents the actions that will be taken to make you feel better.
You shouldn't expect the issue to be resolved after a single conversation or expect a complete change in your work responsibilities or environment. Your manager is there to offer you support but must also manage expectations of what is reasonable and realistic. Solutions should take a holistic view of the situation, looking at removing, where possible, the sources of stress and supporting you through the process.
If you think your manager is contributing to your stress and you don't feel able to speak to them about this, tell their manager, or speak to your HR Adviser.
Occupational Health can provide:
- Advice on supportive measures in the workplace, such as temporary, longer-term or permanent adjustments to your job to help you through a period of stress-related ill-health or with rehabilitation back to work after a period of absence.
- Advice to your manager about any underlying conditions which may require special consideration or support.
- Advice to you regarding appropriate medical support and signposting to other potential support inside and outside the University.
- Advice and assistance regarding the University's Stress Management Procedure and other procedures if appropriate.
If you feel referral to Occupational Health is appropriate, discuss it with your manager or speak to their manager or your HR Adviser. All Occupational Health appointments are confidential and information is only provided to managers with your written, informed consent.
If your symptoms of stress are getting worse and / or having an adverse impact on your work and general wellbeing, you might find it useful to talk to your doctor.
Mental health charity Mind have produced a useful guide on talking to your GP about mental health issues.