Dr C: “There’s no shame in being off with stress”
UK workers feel guilty for taking time off for a mental health reason, but Dr C says stress, anxiety & depression should be taken seriously
Many of us feel M we can’t take time away from work for a mental health reason, yet 94 per cent of HRS say depression and anxiety are adequate reasons to call in sick, and 80 per cent say workplace stress is legitimate.
KNOW WHAT’S VALID
Stress, depression and anxiety are just as valid as other health problems. People need recovery time, and there’s no shame in that. Of course, it’s important to distinguish between normal stress and mental illness; most people will feel some stress and, to some extent, it works in our favour – helping us to hit deadlines and be proactive – but mental illness, be that depression, anxiety or something else, needs treatment.
SPOT WARNING SIGNS
There isn’t one symptom I can suggest that would mean you need to take time off, it’s more about an inability to cope. You may notice you’re irritable, anxious, unable to switch off, dreading work, can’t concentrate or you’re tearful. You may also have physical symptoms, such as poor sleep, muscle pain, headaches, grinding your teeth at night, chest pains or panic attacks. If you’re suffering with any of these, see your GP. If they sign you off work, it’s for a very good reason. Sometimes, all it takes is a week’s rest – sometimes it can take a lot longer – but a doctor doesn’t hand out sick notes easily, so you should take it seriously, as should your employer.
It’s also important not to let stress build up. That means taking your annual leave, but also making time for breaks during your day, if possible. We’re all very bad at downtime, but we need it. Sometimes people can’t take a full lunchbreak, or go for a walk after a stressful meeting, but you can factor in downtime at home.
There are three pillars to good health: diet, exercise and rest, so avoid filling every evening with activities, and don’t feel guilty about simply relaxing.
You may need to talk to your manager or someone from HR about your workload, because your employer has a responsibility when it comes to your health as well. Think what could help, such as flexible hours, working from home or sharing certain tasks. You may worry they’ll judge you, but you need to find solutions. The sooner you deal with stress, the sooner you’ll get it sorted. ● We need your help to make it a legal requirement to have trained mental health first aiders in every workplace or college. Sign our petition at wheresyourheadat.org.
DR CHRISTIAN GIVES HIS TAKE ON THE HOT HEALTH TOPICS OF THE WEEK