Business Action | February / March 2019


Independent North Devon-based business magazine covering news about business and enterprise in Barnstaple, Bideford, Braunton, Chulmleigh, Combe Martin, Holsworthy, Ilfracombe, Lynmouth, Lynton, South Molton, Torrington, Woolacombe and more.


Workplace stress:

Prevention is better than cure

Statistics show that between

December 2017 and 2018

15.4 million days at work

were lost due to ill health, and

that the vast majority of this

was linked to stress, depression

and / or anxiety, with

an average of 25.8 days per

person over 18 years old.

Mental health is now

talked and written about

more than ever before. We

have an increased awareness

and empathy towards it, so

how can it be that so many

people are still unable to

maintain their working lives

healthily? And what can we

do about it?

As a professional counsellor,

I have to attend regular

clinical supervision sessions,

where I off-load to another

professional counsellor /

supervisor. This happens once

a month and is a completely

confidential space where I can

explore any blocks I may feel I

have within my work, but also

to talk about how I am, how

I am managing my workload,

my work / life balance and my

own health – essentially it is

‘counselling for counsellors’

and, most importantly, it is

an absolutely, non-negotiable

aspect of the Ethical Framework

for counsellors: I cannot

practise without it.

So, what’s stopping

supervision being on offer to

everyone within the workplace?

I am not suggesting

everyone would want it, but

what about having it on offer

for those who do?

Now, I know many

employers include supervision

within line-management

roles, but this just isn’t the

same. An employee is not

going to admit to their linemanager,

or possibly anyone

within their place of work,

that they are struggling. I am

talking here about external,

completely confidential

Professional counsellor and supervisor Kelly Smith suggests that

confidential discussion with an external supervisor is an effective

approach to reducing stress at work

supervision, provided by a

professional supervisor who

can listen, with empathy and

without judgement, offer

support and understanding,

and help to explore strategies

to reduce stress, while

still managing to continue


The hormone, cortisol, is

released during stressful situations

to provide the body with

increased glucose in order to

produce more energy to fight

or flee a stressor. This reaction

happens within the reptilian

part of our brain, the amygdala,

and is a life-saver if we

actually need it. The problem

here is that we rarely actually

need it for what it was originally

intended, therefore the

Practical tips on managing stress

➤➤Track your stressors – keep a diary for a

week or two to identify which situations

cause most stress and how you respond

to them

➤➤Develop healthy responses

➤➤Establish boundaries

➤➤Take time to recharge

➤➤Take breaks within the working day

➤➤Eat well

➤➤Keep hydrated

➤➤Practice mindfulness

➤➤Get some support

➤➤Talk – to a family member or friend, or

access professional support

excess energy now presents as

stress and anxiety, and never

increases productivity.

In the short term, it slows

our sensory processing and

functional skills, such as

memory, while in the long

term increased cortisol levels

lead to raised blood-sugar

levels and potentially a whole

range of physical and mental

ill-health issues.

Studies show that stress is

a factor in an ever-increasing

number of health problems

and whatever we can do to

reduce this must be regarded

with a sense of priority.

A significant, beneficial

factor in attending supervision

for me is merely taking

the time for myself – time to

reflect and, sometimes, just

to breathe. We all lead busy

lives and it can be very easy to

get on a treadmill that we feel

we have no control over and

no idea how to slow down or

get off. The faster we run, the

more cortisol we produce and

the more stressed we feel.

Having someone reflect

this back to us can help us to

really see this and to possibly

recognise that we are running

at a pace that isn’t sustainable.

Sometimes we need permission

to slow down before we

fall down.

It is my goal that talking

therapies, in any form, be it

supervision for work or counselling

for our personal lives,

become as commonplace as

going to the gym, eating well

or having a massage – just a

very ‘normal’ aspect of maintaining

a healthy lifestyle, and

employers could have a huge

impact by offering this, and,

of course, by accessing this

themselves. I am talking about

getting everyone talking,

before stress takes hold.

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