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The Forestry Commission with support from the FCTU is committed to the health, safety and welfare of all its employees and this policy acknowledges the importance of identifying and reducing workplace stress. The FC's Stress Policy highlights the responsibilities of all employees, managers and Human Resources in stress management.

What is stress?

Stress can affect anyone at any level of the business. Recent research has shown that work related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. HSE's formal definition of work related stress is "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work".

Stress is not an illness – it is a state. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop.

Well-designed, organised and managed work is generally good for us but when insufficient attention to job design, work organisation and management has taken place, it can result in work related stress. This develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. Stress, including work related stress, can be a significant cause of illness and is known to be linked with high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other issues such as more errors.

There is an important distinction to be made between pressure and stress:

Pressure can be positive, acting as a motivator that enables people to meet deadlines or rise to a challenge

Stress is a natural reaction to excessive pressure and can be detrimental to health

Causes of stress

Different situations and different factors can cause stress, both in work and in your personal life. There are a number of factors that cause work-related stress, including: 

You may feel stressed if you’re in the wrong job for your skills, abilities and expectations. Sometimes there is no single cause of work-related stress. It can be caused by a build-up of small things over time.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Stress can cause changes in those experiencing it. In some cases there are clear signs that people are experiencing stress at work and if these can be identified early, action can be taken before the pressure becomes a problem. This may make it easier to reduce and eliminate the causes.

It is important that everyone looks out for changes in their own or other people's behaviour. However, in many cases the changes may only be noticeable to the person subject to the stress and so it is also important to look at how you are feeling and try to identify any potential issues you may have as early as possible and take positive action to address them; this may be raising the matter with a line manager, talking to an occupational health professional or your own GP.

Stress can show itself in many different ways, through cognitive, emotional, behavioural or physical symptoms; both short and long term. Some of the many common signs of too much stress include:

Diagnosis of work-related stress

To be able to tackle work-related stress, it’s important to recognise the symptoms or any changes in your behaviour. The sooner you realise that it’s causing you problems, the sooner you can take action to make things better.

Remember that some days will be more stressful than others so it’s important not to overreact to small changes in your behaviour. However, if you feel stressed over a long period of time or any changes in your behaviour continue, you should seek help.

Don't be afraid to ask your GP, your manager or indeed your union rep for help or advice if you’re feeling stressed because of work. Your GP in particular will usually be able to recognise the symptoms of stress and give you advice about how to deal with it.

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Dealing with stress and its symptoms

Besides medical advice, there are many things you can do to reduce the impact of stress. You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation. - How to Manage Stress