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This guide is concerned with work-related stress: that is, stress that arises from, or is made worse by, work. Work related stress is not an illness, but it can lead to increased problems with ill health, if it is prolonged or particularly intense.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines stress as "the reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope." It is not a disease. However if stress is intense and goes on for some time, it can lead to mental and physical ill health (eg depression, nervous breakdown, heart disease). Workplace stress, if not properly managed, is associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.
Historically stress used to be divided into positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress). In this older view, "to be alive was to experience some form of stress". Nowadays the term “stress” is synonomous with negative stress and the word "pressure" is frequently used to describe positive stress.
You are not alone if you feel very or extremely stressed. In the country as a whole, as many as one in five people could be feeling the same way. Ideally tackling work-related stress is a partnership between you, your manager, and the University: a partnership based on honesty and trust, where you all say what you feel about the situation.
Stress is not a weakness and is not something you have to suffer. The University has a responsibility to protect your health and safety at work and as a good employer will work with you to better manage workplace stress and assist you in dealing with the adverse effects of personal stress.
The symptoms of stress can manifest themselves in a variety of ways over time and, of course, in combination with each other. There are three broad areas of symptoms:
There are other symptoms. There can also be longer-term issues which may develop into more complicated conditions. Equally, any one of these points could be nothing in itself but if you recognise a number of features of your life outlined above, then now may be a good time to identify the cause.
Answer the questions below to help you to understand how well you currently manage your stress.
No one can ever be in control of all the stresses in their life, but we can learn how to manage them better. The University through the Staff Development Program offers individual staff members the opportunity to build their confidence and skills in areas such as communication skills, managing change and conflict resolution. Some faculties and other areas run local health and well being programs. The Division of Student Life website has some useful information and resources. In the community there are a range of programs that also address individual issues or interests such as insomnia, diet, yoga, aerobics and healthy heart assessments.
The more detailed checklist is at : Stress Self-Assessment Checklist for Staff Members (67 KB)
You can help at work by:
Deakin expects managers to be supportive of staff and assist them, specifically:
If you have been off work with a stress-related illness, talk about it with your manager or with your Human Resources Partner. You may also want to discuss your situation with Health, Wellbeing and Safety or the Equity and Diversity Unit especially if you have an ongoing condition. Say how you feel, explain what led to the event and what you would like to see happen. Take a work colleague or representative with you if you do not feel you can do this on your own. If possible, try to do this before you return from leave so any arrangements can be put in place before your return.
There are usually more areas than we initially think where we can take control of our own lives. A key component of any approach involves making a change, doing something different. The following advice will not prevent work-related stress, but may help you take care of yourself and ensure that you don't make the problem worse. You can: