Wednesday 2 November 2011 8:14 pm

Sick with stress: It can happen to us all

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LLOYDS Banking Group boss Antonio Horta-Osorio shocked us all when he announced that he would be taking time off due to fatigue. The pressure seems to have finally got to the high-flying chief executive known for his fast-paced style. So severe is Horta-Osorio’s condition that doctors have given him orders to rest until the end of the year. He’s not on his own though: the Health and Safety Executive estimate that 9.8m working days were lost last year due to stress-related conditions. How can we prevent this happening to us? Here’s what the experts say. 1. SPOT THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS “Insomnia, irritability and physical symptoms like backache are the early warning signs of a breakdown,” says Corinne Mills, a career coach at Personal Career Management, who regularly coaches clients suffering from severe stress. It is sometimes difficult for people who are experiencing high-levels of stress to spot these signs. “Listen carefully to your friends and family’s perceptions.” 2. GO TO YOUR GP Getting help with stress is still sometimes treated as taboo. Mills says it’s high time perceptions changed because there is so much help available from your GP. “Doctors can provide access to talking therapies and medication. It is far more sensible to seek these sorts of solutions sooner rather than later.” 3. TAKE A BREAK City workers often don’t have the luxury of much work-life balance, but everyone needs time to think and reflect on life, says Rachel Brushfield, a career coach at Energise. “You have to make the time for this to stay sane. Have lunch outside of the office and make sure there are times when you turn off your mobile phone – even if it’s only for a few hours.” 4. TAKE A HOLIDAY It might feel impossible to take time off, but everyone in the UK is given holiday and you are suppose to take it. “Even if it’s just a week and you don’t go anywhere, take the time to calm down and get some perspective,” says Mills. “It’s important to have the time to work out why you’re stressed, so you can deal with it more effectively.” 5. TALK TO YOUR MANAGERS It is in both you and your manager’s interest to discuss your workload and performance. “After a holiday, summon up the courage to speak to your manager about your workload and working environment. Even if it doesn’t achieve anything other than simply opening a dialogue about stress, at least you’ve taken some control of the situation and that will make you feel much better – trust me,” says Mills.