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Recognising Stress in Others – Signs and Symptoms

Stress is not an indication that people are weak. It is our natural reaction to spending a sustained period of
time dealing with more pressure than we have the ability to deal with.

As a manager and colleague, recognising that a member of your team may not be coping with the pressures
they face is the first stage in the proactive management of stress and stress related absence in your team.

The signs and symptoms of stress will vary greatly from person to person as the experience of stress is very
individual – it can show up in unpredictable ways, from sudden bursts of aggression to unexplained illness.
Symptoms may be directly related to a specific stressful event, such as an argument with a colleague, or may
be the result of an accumulation of pressures over time.

The following checklist details some signs and symptoms to look out for in others. This is not exhaustive, as
symptoms will vary greatly from person to person. It is not the case that these symptoms are automatically
indicative of stress, but if they are dramatic or persistent and uncharacteristic of the individual in question, it is
likely that there is a problem.

Physical Behavioural Thinking Emotional

Headaches Increased smoking Poor concentration Irritability

Unable to listen to Becoming angry with


Indigestion/heartburn Increased use of alcohol
others others too easily
Lack of appetite/over
Appetite change Memory lapses Depressed/tearful
eating
Muscular tension/aches Confusion and
Restlessness/fidgeting Frightened
& pains disorientation
Difficulty making Worried/anxious-panic
Nausea/being sick Absence
decisions attacks
Lack of Poor planning &
Indigestion Impatient
motivation/commitment task execution
Negative/ unhelpful
Dizziness Increased aggression Mood swings
thought patterns
Palpitations More prone to accidents
Avoiding contact with
Sleepless
others
Fatigue Loss of sense of humour
 
Do you recognise these changes in others?
Is there anything you can do to better positively challenge or support your colleagues in dealing with their
pressures? The worksheet on preparing and holding a wellbeing focused conversation with others could help
you discuss some of these symptoms if you recognise them in a colleague.