Jane Fowler – Head of Customer Support Services
Hello and welcome to this week’s Wellbeing Wednesday. Thanks to Carolyn for picking up the reins of WBW last week when I was on leave – I can definitely vouch for the benefits of a break to de-stress! It is interesting how we don’t always realise that we have become a little bit stressed until we step back from the hamster wheel of work and relax. Or try to relax. Being unable to switch off and completely relax can be one of the signs that you are experiencing stress. This week our information for you is about helping you to be aware of stress indicators both in yourself and in others. The more we are able to recognise the signs, the sooner we can deal with it by getting support and prevent it from escalating into serious ill health. And stress at this time of year, with Christmas coming, can be added to by financial worries, so we have information this week for you on money and some strategies, tips and practical ideas about managing your finances and still having a great time!
As always – I hope you find something in this week’s edition that is helpful. See you next week!
International Stress Awareness Week 1 - 5 November
International Stress Awareness Week was created in 2018 to raise awareness about stress prevention, focusing on stress management and campaigning against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues.
Data from the Health and Safety Executive shows that the estimated number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety is increasing. In 2019/20 this resulted in 828,000 cases with stress, depression or anxiety accounting for 51% of all work-related ill health. Their data also indicates that Stress, depression or anxiety is more prevalent in public service industries including education and health and social care.
Information from the Mental Health Foundation also indicates that 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
So what can we do to help address stress in the workplace? The first step is awareness, recognising the signs in ourselves and others and talking about it so that something can be done. Stress is now a common work-related illness and one that is only increasing, so avoiding discussing it is not a sustainable option if we want to have a healthy workforce.
Recognising the signs
Stress can show itself in many ways and affect all parts and systems of the body:
- Changes in behaviour or emotions, increased sensitivity, irritation or negativity
- Changes in heart rate, blood pressure or palpitations
- Muscle tension and join pain
- Digestive system and gut problems including nausea or ‘butterflies’ in stomach
- Changes to usual sleep patterns, sleeping too little or for excessive periods
- Change in personal hygiene or deterioration in appearance
- Increased smoking or drinking / drug taking or changes in attendance or timekeeping.
- Changes in appetite, overeating or loss of appetite.
Talk about it
We might identify any of these signs in ourselves or through day to day interactions with our colleagues and those we manage. Asking someone if they are suffering from stress might feel tricky but there is help available or how to start that conversation with someone who you think might be suffering from stress.
Overall, the most important thing is to listen and give the person space to talk about how they are feeling, in their own words. Don’t feel you will need to solve their problem, very often the person will know or will be able to identify a solution – they just needed an opportunity and someone to take the time to help them talk through it.
If you are a manager supporting an employee you might also find the HSE stress talking toolkits and this practical guidance are a helpful first step on planning for and holding a conversation about stress. You should also refer to the reducing stress at work policy and procedure for guidance on the actions that should be taken.
If you have identified signs of stress in yourself, the first thing to do is speak to your manager about it and complete a stress risk assessment and action plan. Even if you feel the stress is being caused by factors outside of work, it can still impact on how you feel at work. You can find a copy of this on The Hub, if you can’t access The Hub, contact the Wellbeing Team who will provide you with a copy. The risk assessment will help you and your manager to identify where stress is an issue and the action plan will help you to agree on solutions to address it.
You may also want to consider contacting the Employee Assistance Programme who can provide you with specialist advice or counselling and take some time to review the stress support and guidance available via their portal including this helpful guide to understanding how stress and pressure affects us. The Mental Health Foundation also has a helpful page on identifying and addressing symptoms of stress.
Of course, if you are having difficulty coping or are worried about stress and the impact on your health you should contact your GP.
Talk Money Week 9 - 12 November 2021
As the weeks continue to fly by and we are now just over 7 weeks away from Christmas, this is an ideal opportunity to talk about money and how we can try to manage our finances more effectively.
Talk Money Week is an annual campaign held each November to get the nation talking about money and how to manage it. The week provides a platform to have a conversation about money between families and friends, at work or at school or any other walk of life. The aim is to turn talking about money from one of the UK’s least favourite topics into something we are all more comfortable doing.
Why talk money?
Talking openly about money is vitally important for our health, wealth and relationships. The effect of Covid-19 has made it more important than ever to start conversations about money.
Research shows that people who talk about money:
- make better and less risky financial decisions
- have stronger personal relationships
- help their children form good lifetime money habits
- feel less stressed or anxious and more in control
Building money conversations into our everyday lives also helps us build financial confidence and resilience to face whatever the future throws at us.
If we’re not prepared, we can struggle to cope when an income shock happens or a life event changes everything.
Talk Money Week is a great opportunity to join, start or lead the conversation. It’s for anyone who wants to manage money better, or any organisation working to help people deal with money matters. Organisations can also use the week to learn more about financial wellbeing and what it might mean for them and their customers.
For more information check out Talk Money Week
Scot West Credit Union also have helpful advice on a number of financial topics including saving, borrowing, buying a house, struggling with debt and money advice for young people.
You may want to think about opening a Christmas Savings Account for next year, or if you have already signed up, you will be able to gain access to your savings on 10th November and can start your Christmas shopping early!
You can find more information about ScotWest’s services here: ScotWest
Martin Lewis’s website, Money Saving Expert has a wealth of useful tips and advice on all things money-related and is updated regularly to ensure advice is current.
Don’t forget you may also get some excellent deals via our Employee Benefits Scheme, Vivup.
Making Christmas More Affordable
While Christmas should be a time to relax and enjoy time spent with family and friends, it can also be a huge financial strain, particularly when finances are already stretched and this can lead to debt problems and increased stress and anxiety.
There are ways to help reduce your costs at Christmas.
- Start planning now and make a list of all the people you need to buy presents for. Set yourself a budget for each person, and stick to it! Buying early can mean you are not getting the inflated prices that can occur nearer the day, and you may have more choice.
- Think about all those “little” gifts and stocking fillers you might buy for extended friends and family – and consider the costs as they add up. If you have got into the habit of buying for people you rarely see then consider having an honest conversation with them about not buying for each other this year. They may be as relieved as you are to be able to reduce their spending this year.
- If possible, start saving early for Christmas (see more on this from ScotWest above).
- Think about whether you need to buy, and post, Christmas cards to everyone you know! Cut back your list to those you really want to send to or consider sending an online card for a small annual subscription, which is also a much greener option! Jacquie Lawson has some beautiful seasonal cards available and there are many other sites out there. Alternatively, you can make your own cards – but start early!
- Although it is lovely to browse through all the shiny things on offer in the shops, it is also easy impulse buy, so either be very strict with yourself and only buy what is on your list (and ideally shop local) or do shopping online. Many local shops also have online sites and you can click and collect.
- When food-shopping for Christmas really consider what you actually need and what you are buying “just in case”. The shops are not shut for very long and if you need more you will have plenty of opportunities to stock up again, rather than still eating Christmas chocolates in February!
- Think about what you already have – do you need a new Christmas tree, or lights or singing Santa. Most of us have enough decorations tucked away in a safe place to be able to deck out the local village hall!
- It is important to remember that you do not need to spend a huge amount of money to have a good time, and spending time with our loved ones and being kind to each other is far more valuable than an expensive gift that may not be wanted or used.
Do you have some money saving tips for Christmas or just in general? Let us know and we can pass them on.
Please also let us know your thoughts and ideas about the items featured in our Wellbeing Wednesdays each week and send us your suggestions for future topics – we love to hear from you.
The Wellbeing Team: email@example.com