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National Stress Awareness Day: Self-care tips

1 November 2023

5 mins

A wooden bridge leading towards a sunny forest of trees.

Today (1 November) is National Stress Awareness Day, an important reminder to think about your own wellbeing and whether you feel like you may need additional support or guidance on how to manage stress.

The Stress Management Society explained stress through a useful analogy of a bridge: “When a bridge is carrying too much weight, it will eventually collapse. However, before this happens it is possible to see the warning signs, such as bowing, buckling or creaking. The same principle can be applied to human beings. It is usually possible to spot early warning signs of excessive pressure that could lead to breakdown.”

Some early warning signs of stress to look out for include:

  • Being more accident prone
  • Forgetting things
  • A negative change in mood
  • Avoiding certain situations or people
  • Using more negative or cynical language
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • A loss of sense of humour
  • Becoming irritable or short-tempered
  • Suffering from headaches, nausea, aches and pains, tiredness, and poor sleeping patterns.

Sarah Van-Zoelen, Specialist Occupational Health and Wellbeing Nurse Manager at the University commented: “When we fall into a period of intense working, it can be easy to compromise by reducing the time we would spend on exercise, socialising and sleep, instead, spending this ‘extra’ time on completing our workload. This is okay for short defined periods but if this becomes a constant expectation – your health and wellbeing will quickly decline.

“Boundaries are important. One useful tip is to ask yourself daily – ‘what have I done to help boost my own wellbeing today?’ if the answer is ‘nothing’, try to carve out a short period of time for a walk, chat with a friend, cook something nice or prioritise sleeping. You simply cannot perform effectively when your reserves are empty.”

If your workload continues to be challenging, it may be worth looking at the discussions in the talking toolkit and thinking about your workload in terms of demands, control, support, relationships and change. Once you have highlighted areas of specific concerns – speak with your manager for support.

You are also able to self-refer to the Occupational Health and Wellbeing service for further support and guidance.

Below are some useful self-care tips which may help you to reduce your stress levels:

  • Exercise can help to clear your thoughts, allowing you to deal with problems more calmly.
  • A good support network can ease your worries and help you see things in a different way, talking through things with a friend may also help you to find solutions.
  • It’s important to take some time for yourself as well as for socialising and relaxation.
  • Prioritise your most important tasks and projects earlier in the day, accept that you may not have time for everything.
  • Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible, try to concentrate on the things that you do have control over.
  • Try writing down three things that went well or for which you are grateful at the end of each day.

Here is a list of some of the services and resources we encourage staff to use if they need any wellbeing support:

  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – a confidential, unlimited support service for any matter that might be of concern to you which is available to access 24/7 via web and telephone. Health Assured have widened their provision to include access to computerised CBT interventions, to access this please call Health Assured on 0800 028 0199.
  • Maximus – confidential external support through the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service.
  • My Healthy Advantage app – complementing the EAP, this app provides an enhanced set of wellbeing tools and engaging features to help the user’s mental and physical health. 
  • Togetherall – designed to help people get support to take control of their wellbeing and feel better. It provides 24/7 peer-to-peer and professional support (from experienced clinicians who are always online), plus a range of courses and tools to help people self-manage their wellbeing. 
  • The Yellow Book – an online resource with various tools and techniques to help combat stress in written and audio format. The e-book features poems, songs, readings and artwork to help with your mental wellbeing (please note that sign-in is required). 
  • The University Chaplaincy (Email:, Tel: 01509 223741) offers a space for quiet reflection. University Chaplains are here to listen, here to care and here to help all staff and students. No appointment is necessary.   
  • Mental Health First Aiders – these staff members are trained to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and can potentially avert a crisis from happening. They can do this by recognising warning signs, and they have the skills and confidence to approach and support someone experiencing poor mental health. 

You can also access a range of free resources from the Stress Management Society.

Health and Wellbeing

Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.

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