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Recognising the signs of stress

December 11 2023

Stress describes a person’s physical or emotional response to the demands or pressures of daily life. Common causes of stress include work, money, relationships and illness. The way we respond to stress makes a big difference to our wellbeing so it is important to know what to look out for and take action as early as possible.

The symptoms and signs of stress to look out for

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling nervous, anxious or irritable
  • Lower productivity at work
  • Overeating or having no appetite
  • Stomach pain, upset stomach or headaches
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Tense muscles or shallow breathing
  • Trouble concentrating, trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep once awake
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

Ways to manage the symptoms of stress

Eating, drinking and sleeping well
As well as following a balanced diet, there are foods that can help reduce the cortisol levels in the body and therefore help us fight against the side-effects of stress. They help us by containing the substances we need to regulate our stress levels; look for foods high in vitamin C, serotonin, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants and vitamin D.

Staying hydrated is important for us all to maintain a healthy, functioning mind and body.
To get a better night’s sleep, stay away from screens for the last few hours of the day, try a hot bath, avoid alcohol and do something relaxing before bedtime like reading or yoga.

Being physically active
Being physically active helps us feel good about ourselves, boosts productivity and supports better-quality sleep and relaxation. It also alleviates stress and increases endorphins that have a positive impact on mental health. Even small changes to our routine can make a big impact on our overall health. Remember – physical activity does not always mean exercise.

Ways to be physically active in the workplace


  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Have walking meetings instead of sitting in the office
  • If you drive to work, park the car further away from the entrance, therefore increasing your steps to and from the car
  • If you take public transport to work, get off the bus or train one/two stops early and walk the rest of the way
  • Go for a team walk at lunchtime
  • Challenge each other to a team ‘step-a-thon’ to find who can do the most steps on a single shift, or extend it to a week

Find a safe place to talk
It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress within ourselves. If you are feeling stressed at work and finding it overwhelming, then speak with your line manager or people business partner.

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