North East business leaders share their
top tips on stress management

Stress – it’s something employees have all experienced in some way, shape or form. In fact, research shows that the most common types of stress in the UK are in fact work-related.

There’s so much information at our fingertips explaining what workplace stress is, why employees are stressed and how workforce stress levels have gone through the roof over the past few years, but we wanted to get down to the nitty-gritty on exactly HOW organisations are handling the escalating work-stress epidemic. And who better to ask than our region's business leaders?!

We’ve been fortunate enough to hear from several North East employers on how they are managing stress at this challenging time and it appears there are some stand-out themes! So next time you’re feeling that pressure mount up, here’s a toolkit of tried-and-true stress-busting activities.

Get Moving

Our beautiful Roseberry Topping and the Cleveland Hills

Physical health and mental health go hand in hand - when your body feels good, your mind will too. It’s been proven that even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking can increase mental alertness, energy, and positive mood. While other forms of exercise such as yoga can lower cortisol and perceived stress. Pretty worth it right? Those below are already reaping in the benefits.

I have just got a new Shakti mat which seems to work wonders at the minute. I'm trying to introduce yoga and meditation into the cycle too.

Fresh air - we like to pull on our walking boots and get out in the fresh air. We’ve got some amazing coast and countryside all just a short distance from our doorsteps. Even just a short walk away from it all can help.

The best thing I can do to relieve stress but to also think things through and put them into perspective is to pull on my walking boots and go for a walk. I especially love the Cleveland Way. I have just got a new puppy, Jack and now my kids are older I can't wait for him to be the one out traipsing with me. I find hills to be the best stress reliever as I am so unfit, I have to concentrate so much on just making it up there, that I can't think of anything else.

Take time out

Walking along The Infinity Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees

Lockdown has seen people glued to their desks more than ever before with a shocking 95% of UK employees neglecting microbreaks when working from home. With staff feeling guilty, under too much pressure or worried that they’re considered to be ‘slacking’, it’s easy for them to forget just how important regular breaks are for reducing stress levels and improving workplace wellbeing. Try taking a leaf out of the books below:

"Try to allocate working hours. It can be easy to continue working especially if you are working from home, setting strict work hours ensures you have time to switch off and relax outside of those times."

If I am feeling stressed or snowed under, I like to take a hot bath with lots of bubbles or take the dog for a long walk to clear my head. The hardest part can be noticing the signs and making a conscious effort to take time out.

Remember to rest - the body heals both physically & mentally when we are resting. Therefore it is important to have this as a regular habit for our mental and physical wellbeing.

For me taking a few moments away from the causation of any stress is key. I like to take a moment for myself outside, on the bench for some sunshine and fresh air. Or an informal chat, perhaps perched on the corner of a colleague's desk, can be invaluable and provide that support that business leaders still need.”


Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

Breathing – it’s one of the most overlooked stress management tools we have that’s readily accessible and totally free, yet so many of us don’t give it a second thought. By simply conscious breathing, i.e. paying more attention to how you’re breathing, it can make a huge impact on your stress levels. Give it a go following the useful tips:

Breathe! Breathing is the most important function for sustaining life and several studies have linked deep breathing exercises with an improvement in positive thought processes, reduction in stress hormones and improved cognitive function.

When I’m facing a stressful situation whether it’s conflict based or I’m feeling really under pressure for a deadline. My body starts to react, my heart rate increases, I feel tension in my head & upper back, and everything starts to tighten. So, I do something very simple to combat it. I take ten very deep breathes, breathing through my nose and out my mouth. Then if I can I walk outside or away from the situation and I do it again, the more very deep breathes. Then I pick one positive thing in my life or that day to remind myself of, no matter how trivial. This calms me.”

I practice mindful meditation every day. I do it either in the shower (I don't get disturbed there) or when I lie down in bed. I focus on my breathing and nothing more. for me control of your breath allows you to control your body and emotions in many ways. A few moments of mindful breaths for me can help to reset in many ways.

Connect with yourself

Reading in Ropner Park, Stockton on Tees

With so much going on around us, particularly amidst the chaos of Covid-19, it’s easy to forget what’s going on internally. Those thoughts, feelings and emotions get buried down or pushed aside as we get on with our working day, however a lack of self-awareness often results in a magnifying effect on mood and stress levels. Here’s a few friendly reminders to check-in with yourself regularly.

Fear is the biggest emotion right now and so it is even more important to connect to yourself before you start your day. Watch what you consume, don’t plug into mainstream media too much, and focus on your future vision. Stay in your lane with confidence.”

Make time for yourself! With a busy work and family life, and other commitments it’s all too easy to forget about your own wellbeing. Find something you really enjoy doing, something that is ‘your’ time, something that helps reduce your stress, something that relaxes you, and try to do this when you are feeling stressed. It’s not selfish to focus on yourself when needed, and not only will you feel the full benefit of de-stressing but also those around you will.

As a new business owner, I think it’s so easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed really quickly with the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to keep clients happy & achieve deadlines etc. Try writing down what’s gone right & your accomplishments so far. There’ll be a lot more than you realise & it really will give you that reminder that you can handle whatever is stressing you out.

rethink your working habits

Working remotely at The Raby Arms, Hartlepool

With the rapid shift to homeworking following the Covid-19 outbreak, the global workforce was forced to rethink their working habits, whether they liked it or not! Don’t worry we’re not saying you need to rethink how you work AGAIN to effectively combat stress, however by adding a few healthier work habits into your day it could make all the difference. Here’s what others find useful:

A great tip for dealing with stress would be to have a safe forum. A place whereby you can ‘empty your head’ free from judgement to release the pressures you may feel as a leader and then work through any challenges together.

My best tip is to focus on the one thing you are doing before moving on to the next. Don't try to multitask, it doesn't work, it just makes us feel more anxious and stressed. If we're doing more than one thing at once, then we're not focusing on the ONE thing properly at all.

Have a network of other small business owners around you so you can bounce ideas, share concerns and ask for advice. It's always reassuring to know there are others in the same boat who share similar challenges but who can also offer a different perspective on things.”

Have a craic at work with your mates & try to be kind to everyone you meet.

When it comes to stress management and staying positive at work, there is so much we can learn from children and young people…

1. Be happy for no reason

2. Be totally immersed in whatever you are doing

3. Focus on now, not yesterday or tomorrow

4. Have no Ego

5. Forgive quickly

6. Go where the excitement is

7. Stay where there is love and

8. Be creative and have fun

I’d recommend trying all eight."

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relieving activities – what works well for one person, may not necessarily work well for another. The good news is you now have a toolkit of different, demonstrable techniques at the ready.

If you’re looking for further support on managing stress in the workplace, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!