Coping with stress

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Running a pub is a demanding occupation and while it may not be possible to eliminate stress entirely, steps can be taken to minimise the effects it...

Running a pub is a demanding occupation and while it may not be possible to eliminate stress entirely, steps can be taken to minimise the effects it has on you.

Dr Paula Franklin, assistant medical director at BUPA investigates.

Stress is estimated to cost the UK an annual £4billion. Stress-related illnesses account for over a third of the 18 million days of sick leave taken by employees every year.

There's no doubt that running a pub in a highly competitive industry is demanding, and a certain amount of pressure is inevitable. But stress kicks in when demands become unmanageable. Our bodies are adapted to cope with stressful situations over the short term, but chronic stress makes serious inroads into our mental and physical health.

Heart disease, ulcers, an increased susceptibility to infection and depression are just some of the possible consequences. Chronic stress also reduces productivity and efficiency, and undermines professional and personal relationships.

Recognising the signs

You might not be able to eliminate stress entirely, but you can minimise its effects. First, recognise the signs. Irritability, poor concentration, forgetfulness, constant headaches or digestive problems and poor sleep are all indicators of stress.

Rather than just running faster to keep up, acknowledge that the situation has become unmanageable. Different people respond differently to varying levels of stress, but it's not a character flaw if your threshold is lower than someone else's in the same job. If you think you need help, ask for it. It may not be as obvious, but just like broken glass, workplace stress can be a health hazard.

While it might sound obvious, take time to think about why you feel under stress, and what might alleviate it. Stressful environments tend to affect all staff, so talking through the issues can help to identify the stress points and throw up potential solutions. Are there changes you could make to shifts, workload, or staffing levels that could share out responsibilities more effectively or free up some time? Is there some training that you or another member of staff could undertake to address a particular issue - perhaps dealing with conflict, or time management?

Relaxation and exercise

Social support and time for yourself away from work are vital stress antidotes, so make time for friends and outside interests or hobbies. Think of relaxation as essential rather than just whatever time is left over from work.

Try and get into the habit of exercising on a daily basis. Exercise boosts endorphin levels, the body's natural mood enhancers, and can work faster than prescription drugs, according to recent research. A brisk 10 minute walk or a swim are all it takes.

Stress uses up a lot of the body's resources so upping the alcohol, cigarette, or "comfort" food intake will make a bad situation worse. Try and eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and snack on dried fruit and unsalted nuts rather than crisps and chocolate. Limit your caffeine intake because it heightens the body's response to stress.

The benefits of meditation have been widely reported, but if you can't see yourself doing this, practise slow, deep breathing, in and out through your nose half a dozen times, several times a day. It's an extremely effective way of calming mind and body, and can help diffuse charged situations.

And if you're reading this thinking that you have no time to put any of this into practice, your stress levels are probably much too high already.

Related topics: Training

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