Tackling stress at work:
a free worksheet

Jo Hooper

Stress. That insidious, foggy, panicky, sweaty palmed feeling. We all get it. A big presentation, a pitch, a to-do list as long as your arm, a tough conversation can all trigger those tell-tale signs.

April is Stress Awareness Month – a month-long campaign to get you, your family, your colleagues, your bosses, thinking about stress and start talking about it.

Being aware of and talking about stress is an important first step to tackling it, but it is just that. Step one.

Awareness days, weeks, months are a good reminder to talk about these issues in the workplace – a nice way into content that can otherwise be difficult to develop a hook for. But what’s key to making a difference to the way you, your team, your employees feel is action.

Taking action when someone is struggling; training line managers so they know how to have what can be difficult conversations and support their teams; having the right support services in place; knowing how to keep that awareness and action going year-round.

Mad and sad club is focused on helping you take action – whether you’re an internal communicator, responsible for communicating about mental health in the workplace; a HR professional considering how to support your people tackle their mental health; a manager wanting to support their team or an employee who cares about your colleagues.

That’s why I’ve developed a free stress worksheet to help you identify signs that you, or a friend or colleague might be stressed; work through those feelings and give you some tips to take action. You can download the worksheet here.

If symptoms of stress go unchecked, they can become far harder to tackle and can lead to anxiety, so it’s important to stop, notice how you’re feeling and take action.

You can use this worksheet for yourself, pass it on to a friend or colleague, or you could use it as the basis of a session with your team.

Here are some tips to run an exercise around stress in your team using my worksheet. The aim is to get people thinking and talking openly about stress. Recognising that it’s OK to speak up and getting your team to consider how they can support one another.

  • Visual – have the signs section of the worksheet visible
  • Ice breaker – ask people about their best day at work. Note down key themes on a flip chart
  • Introducing stress – a bad day – ask them to write on one post-it note what it felt like and on another which of the stress symptoms they noticed around that time (if any)  
  • If you can, share your story verbally to get the conversation going and show your honesty
  • Pick out some of the recurring feelings and symptoms and note down on a flip chart or on the screen
  • Reflection – ask people if they were surprised to see the number of stress signs that the group had experienced
  • Taking action – ask people to share how they dealt with those feelings and symptoms
  • Ask people how they would react to a team mate if they were stressed
  • Use the action section of the worksheet to prompt discussion here
  • Prompting kindness – highlight differences between the two answers – we generally see that people are more empathetic towards friends than themselves
  • Changing things – discuss as a team what your ‘stress tells’ are – behaviours that will tell others you are stressed
  • It might be a loud person becoming quiet; it might be an organised person missing a deadline; or someone struggling to organise their to-do list.
  • Agree to action – as a team, agree to keep an eye on each other. If you are a manager, ensure you give your team permission to call out these behaviours when you see them

For a slightly more high-tech version of this exercise, use Sli.do instead of post-its and flip charts!

My tells are a lack of laughter (I’m normally guffawing every five minutes), making little effort with my appearance and obsessing over the small things.

Remember, you don’t need to be a manager or team leader to start this sort of conversation – I think some of the most powerful cultural shifts come from those working their way up the ladder.

If you recognise some of these symptoms in your colleagues, I challenge you to run a stress busting session in your team. Let me know how you get on in the comments.

I’m planning lots of content throughout this month, so if you have any requests – let me know below.

If you want to keep up to date with free and paid for resources, courses and news as they become available, join the club newsletter here.

If you’d like help understanding, talking about or tackling mental health in your workplace, get in touch to see how we can work together.

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