Mel Maughan - stress awareness week blog 2023

Stress Awareness Month 2023: My Stress Signature

Stress Awareness Month is held every April and is the ideal time to open up and have conversations about the everyday causes of stress.

Stress is one of the most common causes of work-related absence in the UK, so it’s important to talk about some positive ways to deal with its effects.

We asked Melanie Maughan, Wellbeing and Safeguarding Manager here at the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), to talk to us about how she recognises when her own stress levels are high and how she tackles that.

3 April 2023

My role involves leading a team that delivers projects that help our colleagues to live healthier and happier lives and providing support to the organisation about all things wellbeing related. It’s an incredibly rewarding role which I’m very lucky to have, but there can be times when I feel my stress levels rising and my ‘container’ starts to overflow.

One of my main sources of stress is my overflowing inbox! I can’t tell you how many different techniques I’ve tried in the past to keep on top of it, it just never empties, and I feel like I’m constantly battling to hold back the tide! I’m sure there will be lots of you out there who experience the same thing.

Another part of my role, that I can feel stressed about is whether the type and level of support I’ve provided when working with a colleague that’s struggling is really going to help. Could we do more? Was there something better I could have done!? Again, I think most of us feel pressure and stress about some of the decisions we make every day when we’re at work.  For me personally, it’s become really important to have sound strategies to manage this, so that when I leave the building or power down my laptop at the end of the day, I can leave the pressures and stress behind.

Most people would expect that I’d be a seasoned pro at managing stress what with working in a team that talks so much about stress and mental health, but it’s really only in the last few years that I’ve really appreciated how important it is to practice self-care (a term that’s often scoffed at!) and build a toolkit that helps me to manage stress and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it!

It’s so easy to self-medicate after a bad day at work and I know in the past I’ve relied on unhelpful coping strategies such as alcohol or food to manage these feelings or to think of it as something I deserve for being stressed. I still do this now, however, what I’ve now come to realise is that when I do this, I’m really not dealing with the issue at hand and there are far better ways for me to manage these feelings.

My favourite way to decompress at the end of the day is by cooking a meal for friends and family, although I have to be careful not to have a glass of wine when I’m doing this. I find prepping food really mindful and having to concentrate on simply chopping, cooking, and serving something helps me take my mind off any of the stress that I may have brought home from work.

I’ve also recently discovered the joys of yoga. I’ve often struggled with mindfulness in the past as I get easily distracted and struggle to focus, however, I find that coupled with movement and breathing (and let’s face it a bit of discomfort as my muscles are crying out in pain) yoga really does take my brain to another place, helping me to forget and calm myself down.

What I have learnt is that however you do manage your stress levels, it is unique to you and you can have fun finding out what works. For some of us, it’s pounding the treadmill at the gym and for others, it’s connecting with our loved ones. Everyone is different!

Take a look at the NHS Every Mind Matters page for more ideas on managing the effects of stress.