The Mental Health Foundation reported that 74% of UK adults have been overwhelmed or unable to cope, with the most common cause being work-related stress.
April is Stress Awareness Month, which aims to increase awareness of both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. To mark this, we have collated various workshops and resources, which we hope will help you manage your stress levels and identify how LJMU can support you.
What is stress?
Stress is a physical response to pressure. It is very common, can motivate us to achieve our goals and help us meet the demands of home, work and family life, however too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships, especially when it feels out of control.
Experiencing high levels of stress for prolonged periods is potentially harmful to our physical health, linked to problems like heart disease, insomnia, immune system and digestion disorders, and is a significant factor in developing mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
Feeling anxious, irritable and having low self-esteem can all be signs you are experiencing excessive stress.
We all need to understand what is causing our own personal stress and learn ways that we can reduce it for ourselves, and those around us.
The good news is it can be managed in a number of ways:
Managing stress: by increasing physical activity
Physical activity is highly effective in reducing stress. It improves blood-flow to the brain which helps you think more clearly, and releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel good hormones. Adding just 20 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine will have a positive impact on your mood. You could go for a walk and get some fresh air at the same time, practice yoga, or join an exercise class. There are plenty of opportunities available via the LJMU Gym Membership. You might also like to join Exy’s Midday Runners, for a friendly jog, led by John Trantom, there various dates available via Staff Events page.
Managing stress: by gaining understanding and knowledge
If we are able to recognise when we start to feel under too much pressure, we can take action to prevent ourselves from being over-loaded. Attending the Increasing Resilience Workshop on Wednesday 19 April, 2-3.30pm, will enable you to gain an understanding of what your own relationship with stress is, and equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to help yourself and others deal with stress. Book via Staff Events page.
It's good to talk. Having the opportunity to confidentially discuss, on a one-to-one basis, the workplace issues that matter to you in an open and honest way can be really beneficial. Whether it's your career, working relationships or something else, email firstname.lastname@example.org and an Organisational Development Practitioner will be in touch.
Togetherall is an award-winning online mental health and wellbeing service available to staff and students, designed to help you get support, take control and feel better. It provides 24/7 support from trained clinicians, as well as various tools and resources to help self-manage your wellbeing. The evidence-based courses are designed to help you manage a variety of mental health difficulties and improve your health and wellbeing at a pace that suits you.
LJMU also partner with the self-help cognitive behaviour therapy programme SilverCloud. You can access a range of online programmes to help you deal with anxiety, depression and stress. Use the information and techniques you learn from each module and apply them to your day-to-day life.
Managing stress: making time for self-care
Now more than ever, it is important to be kind to ourselves and others, identify what makes you happy by reflecting on your day or perhaps take up a new hobby. There are some suggestions below, which might help you do this.
Mindfulness - Relaxation techniques can help you feel less stressed, improve your sleep quality, increase your concentration and memory, and reduce symptoms of anxiety. Dr Peter Malinowski, Reader in Natural Sciences and Psychology, and experienced Mindfulness Practitioner recorded a Guided Mindfulness Meditation session so you can practice. Find out more about mindfulness on the LJMU wellbeing pages. And, listen back to our Bicentenary guided meditation with The Mind Map and Melodic Distraction.
Massage Therapy - Massage and other wellness treatments are the perfect tool to tackle stress, burnout, low morale and injury. Liverpool-based massage and holistic therapies practitioners will be in Room 323, Redmonds Building, on Wednesday 19 April, 10am-4pm, offering 20-minute sessions, bookable in advance. Choose from; chair massage (relieves stiff necks and tension using acupressure techniques); reflexology (application of pressure to specific points on the feet); hand and arm massage (providing relief from stiffness and pain, especially for computer users) or reiki (energy therapy). Treatments are non-invasive and given over clothing so there is no need to get undressed. Book via LJM Therapies.
Gardening - We are currently working on ‘greening up’ the campus and will shortly be asking you to get involved. Look out for future comms to mark National Gardening Week (1-7 May), for activities and tips on how gardening and being in nature can help reduce stress levels.
Managing stress: reducing effects of external stressors
Our physical environment can increase stress levels, for example, being constantly distracted, if your workstation is set-up incorrectly or not having the correct equipment to help you do your job effectively.
Since the pandemic, many of us are still hybrid working. You may have found you are sitting in the same position for longer periods, but it is important to take regular breaks to promote good posture and prevent eye strain. The NHS suggests 7 simple tips to tackle working from home that can help you feel more productive and take care of your physical and mental health, focusing on routine, workspace, breaks etc.
Bupa suggests a variety of desk stretches to help ease aches and pains, including a short video, which may benefit you. Advice from your GP/Physiotherapist should be sought for any current medical condition prior to undertaking any exercises.
Follow our training guide to set-up your workstation, and if you would like further help complete a Display Screen Equipment Self-Assessment Form and return to the Safety, Health and Environment Department via email SHE@ljmu.ac.uk.
Managing stress: managing bad habits
When we are feeling stressed, it can often lead us to make poor choices such as eating unhealthy foods, working more, isolating ourselves or increasing nicotine or alcohol consumption, which can make the problem worse.
Smoking cessation - It is a common belief that smoking helps you relax, but it actually increases anxiety and tension. When smokers haven't had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious. These feelings can be temporarily relieved when they light up a cigarette. So smokers associate the improved mood with smoking. In fact, it is the effects of smoking itself that is likely to have caused the anxiety in the first place. Cutting out smoking does improve mood and reduces anxiety. Support is available on the LJMU wellbeing webpages including online sessions from Smokefree Liverpool.
Alcohol - Alcohol can affect your mental health. Sometimes people drink to help with symptoms of anxiety or depression, but unfortunately any relief is temporary and alcohol only tends to make things worse in the longer term. If you feel you are drinking to cope with stress, try to reduce your alcohol intake. Try some techniques such as mindfulness or deep breathing to distract you from your thoughts and make a plan to keep you focussed. Support is available on the LJMU wellbeing webpages.
Sleep - Lack of sleep can have a huge impact on how we cope with stress. Read our article on sleep prepared for World Sleep Day to find out ways to improve yours.
Managing stress: financial wellbeing
Stress caused by money worries can impact your health in many ways, both physically and mentally. Financial problems can hit at any time and being in a tight spot financially is going to have an effect on your working day if you are constantly worrying.
To support you and help relieve the stress caused by money worries, we are facilitating two financial wellbeing sessions. Personal Finance Planning on Tuesday 9 May, 2-3.30pm and Financial Planning for your Retirement on Tuesday 23 May, 10am-1pm. Book via the Staff Events page.
Further help, advice and support
For more information on stress, as well as other topics, and a range of resources, including self-help guides, visit the Staff Wellbeing Hub.
If you feel you need to talk to someone, confidential advice and support is available from our LJMU Connectors, who are on hand to provide peer support and make sure you have access to the appropriate resources and services. You can also use the EAP service to speak to a trained counsellor 24/7, 365 days a year, call 0330 380 0658 or visit the website.
We will continue to add events throughout the year which we hope will support you and help you manage your wellbeing, so check out the Staff Events page.
This information supports LJMU's Health and Wellbeing Strategy.