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How To Support Your Team With Stress

It is very difficult for someone to ask for help and support when they are feeling very stressed at work. Stress is the state that you experience when you perceive that you cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on you. You feel under pressure and don't have the physical and mental reserves to cope.

You may have one or more of your team who are feeling stressed and need help and support. You don't have to be an expert to provide help and support, to someone who is stressed, just being there for them can make a big difference to how they feel.

So what can you do to help and support your team with stress. Here are some ideas for you to try:

Pay attention to your team and be there for them. How often do you notice how your staff are behaving and feeling? If you are busy you can become very self and task focused and not notice what is going on for your team. However if you pay attention to how your team are you may notice that someone is stressed or needs help and support with how they manage stress.

Recognise the symptoms of stress. So what are the signs that someone may be feeling stressed? There are many different physical, behavioural or emotional symptoms that someone is stressed. You may notice a team member is looking unwell or tired, they may not be eating much, over eating or neglecting their self care. You may notice mood changes such as becoming withdrawn, losing their sense of humour, being easily irritated and short tempered, having trouble concentrating, being agitated, not able to switch off, being indecisive or error prone and flitting from one thing to the next. They may have become very emotional, getting easily upset, feeling hopeless or worthless or being very negative about everything. It may not be something specific but they just seem to be different to how they normally are.

Try and engage the team member in conversation. Firstly try and engage the team member in conversation, perhaps away from the workplace. A simple 'How are you?' may get a response or try something like 'You don't seem your normal self. Maybe 'Let's have a coffee and a chat?' or be more direct and say 'You seem very stressed, what can I do to help and support you?' This can be very difficult to do but it could be the start of them moving forward and getting help. If you don't feel comfortable doing this then tell your boss, HR or someone else that you think the team member is stressed and ask them to speak to them.

Acknowledge you have noticed they are stressed and are concerned. Show concern by telling the team member you are worried about them and that they seemed stressed. This will help them to feel that someone may be able to help and also help them to make sense of how they are feeling. They may not want to discuss this with you but this is okay too.

Encourage the team member to talk. Try and encourage the team member to talk about what is going on for them and how they are feeling. Their answer may come across as quite jumbled up as they may find it hard to articulate what is going on for them. Try reflecting back what they are saying to you e.g. They say 'I have felt the pressure increasing for some time and now I am struggling to cope' and you say 'It sounds like you have.... (repeating what they have said to you).' Telling you may help the team member feel better.

Reassure the team member that it is okay to feel like this. When someone is stressed they may think that they are the only person who has felt this way, they may be embarrassed that they cannot cope, they may feel helpless and they may think there is no way out. Reassure them that it is okay to feel like this and that there is help and support available.

Give the team member your time and really listen. If you are due to be somewhere else, it will be best to rearrange that as once you have enabled the team member to talk you don't want to cut short the conversation. Don't try and solve anything for them just allow them to talk. Help them gain perspective by focusing on the positives as well as the stress as when someone is stressed they become very negative focused and everything seems bad. Offer help and support and be there for them and allow them to see there are choices and options.

Don't get out of your depth. It can feel uncomfortable listening to someone who is stressed but talking will help them make sense of where they are. If you don't feel confident to have the conversation, then go and get someone else, maybe a more senior person or HR.

Try to understand the causes. Try and ascertain what is causing the team member to feel stressed. You can ask open questions to help them explore what the causes may be. You can also reflect back what you think the causes are e.g. 'From what you have said it sounds like x and y are causing you to feel stressed'. From this they may realise what the causes are. Try not to push the person or be intrusive, just allow them to think about the causes and they may then explore this further later.

Encourage the team member to take action. For the team member to feel less stressed they need to take action on the root causes of their stress. Gently encourage them to think about what they could do and what action they could take. To begin with one small action is enough e.g. they may decide to discuss it with their partner or they may decide to do one specific thing. You may want to offer suggestions as well as to what they can do or where you can help them if the causes are work related.

Suggest the team member speaks to someone who may be able to help. You are not an expert on stress and you should not try and be an expert or get yourself into a situation you cannot cope with. At any stage you can suggest that they speak to someone who may be able to help them e.g. HR, their partner, a doctor, a counsellor or other forms of help.

Continue to provide support. One conversation may be enough but in most cases you will need to keep supporting he team member to feel less stressed or by helping them to put in place the support they need.

Hopefully this article has got you thinking about how you can support your team members when they are feeling stressed and want help and support.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: October 2019

Through Makin It Happen - Coaching, Mentoring & Stress Management, Liz Makin provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals. If you are looking for a business coach, business mentor or help with stress please contact Liz on 01780 765270 or email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk to arrange a free consultation session.


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