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Wellness

We’re Living In a Pandemic – But It’s Not What You Think

a sick person lying on the couch under a blanket due to workplace stress

Vicky, here! I take care of content and SEO here at ULU. We’re currently being bombarded left, right and centre with news about pandemic flu. It seems we can’t even turn on the TV or open a newspaper without reading something about coronavirus. And whilst this is a worrying current event, I’m here to tell you that there’s been a different kind of pandemic hiding under our noses this whole time! Allow me to explain…

 

Let’s talk about the ‘P’ word

This week I was looking at some statistics. (such an exciting activity – I know.) But don’t worry – I’m not generally in the habit of looking at stats for fun on a Friday afternoon. I was actually doing some research to write an article on stress– it’s something we all deal with, and it’s something everyone needs help with from time to time. But while I was doing this research, I found something really interesting.

According to a UK Perkbox study from 2020, 79% of adults regularly experience workplace stress. It was also the most commonly experienced type of stress for UK individuals – outranking financial, family, health and relationship stresses. And only 1% of people said that they ‘never’ experience stress in the workplace.

And this got me thinking. With the recent fears over coronavirus, everyone seems to be throwing around the ‘P’ word. ‘Pandemic.’

According to the WHO, a pandemic is ‘an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.’  And after looking at the statistics regarding stress, particularly workplace stress, it starts to look like it might fit into that definition.

 

But workplace stress isn’t deadly…

You might be thinking ‘well, that’s a pretty wild comparison – it’s not like stress can kill you.’ But actually, that’s where you’d be wrong. There is a direct link between stress and the 4 most common causes of death (dementia/Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and diabetes) – not to mention that stress is also a leading factor in suicides.

And in fact, The American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress in the USA alone.

 

 

stressed person lying in bed

 

Here’s what to do about the workplace stress pandemic

 I’ll be honest – I’m a worrier. If there’s something to worry about (and sometimes even when there’s not) – I will find a way to overthink it. So, you’d better believe that I have read the CDC’s advice on how to personally prepare for a pandemic several times over the past few months.So, I’m pretty familiar with how to personally prep for pandemic flu.

However, if workplace stress is experienced at pandemic levels, then why couldn’t we use the CDC guidelines to help us manage this?

I’ve taken the following categories from the CDC guide: ‘Get Your Household Ready For Pandemic Flu’ – and I’ll use each category below to suggest ways to prepare for the pandemic of stress in the workplace:

  • Everyday preventative actions
  • Planning and preparing
  • Taking action during a pandemic

 

1. Everyday preventative actions

 The CDC pandemic preparedness guide stresses the importance of everyday preventative actions to prepare for an outbreak. These include generally staying fit and healthy to strengthen your immune system, as well as promoting awareness.And this is something that you can also do to prepare for dealing with stress in the workplace.

To keep mentally fit and healthy, you could practice some form of mindfulness every day such as meditation or yoga, or even just engage in a stress-relieving activity. (Finding a sport or form of exercise that works for you can be great for managing stress in the workplace.) This will train your mind to become much more resilient, and much more able to deal with stressful situations.

Another important aspect of CDC prep comes from understanding signs of pandemic illness to promote awareness and caution. So, in the case of workplace stress, it’s important to know your triggers, stress points and signs of overwhelm. One of your strategies for managing stress in the workplace should be to understand potential problem situations, as well as being able to recognise when you’re approaching your threshold so that you know when to take a break.

 

2. Planning and preparing for a pandemic

When it comes to preparation, the CDC firstly recommends talking with people who need to be included in your plan. If you feel that regular stress at work may be an issue for you, you should discuss this with your manager or supervisor. This way, you can help them to understand your triggers as well as well as keeping them in the loop if you feel that you might need to take a personal day due to stress.

The guide also recommends making yourself aware of people in your community that could offer assistance. We all need some extra support from time to time. So, it can be really useful to make yourself aware of various community groups and mental health organisations that you might want to contact if you need some extra help with managing stress in the workplace – or stress in general! Alternatively, even just having a friendly face you know you can turn to during stressful times can be really beneficial!

It is also recommended that you plan to have some extra supplies of important items on hand. In this case I’m not talking about stockpiling toilet paper from your local supermarket! However, it can be useful to stock up on things you know help you to manage your stress levels. This could be your favourite brand of herbal tea, a good supply of things to read for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and some comfort food (healthy if possible!)

 

a woman experiencing workplace stress lying in bed in a grey tank top

 

3. Taking action during a pandemic

 The pressures of modern working life are arguably greater than ever before. And of course, occasionally everything gets on top of us. The CDC recommends staying home from work if you become sick. And stress is like any physical illness – sometimes you need to take a personal day to focus on your mental health.

The guide also recommends making smart decisions about attending events and gatherings. And of course, whilst bouts of stress and poor mental health aren’t contagious, you should still assess whether you feel up to social occasions, or whether you need some time at home to recharge. Ultimately, only you’ll know what works for you!

 

Managing stress in the workplace

 So, there you have it. A guide for dealing with and managing stress in the workplace based on CDC pandemic guidelines. And if at the end of this article you still think I’m crazy then I’ll boil everything down into 4 main points:

  • Understand that workplace stress is something that most people experience
  • Accept that it’s okay to take a personal day if you’re getting consistently stressed or overwhelmed
  • Familiarise yourself with potential problem situations or scenarios as well as your own signs of stress-related burnout
  • Take preventative action – work on building emotional and mental resiliency through mindfulness

And above all else make sure U love U!

 

For more content about mental health, I’ve recently written an article about living and working with anxiety!

And for more content about coronavirus and the recent quarantine, read Anthony Peacock’s insightful blog, Reframing Lockdown: Time To Make a Change?

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