The advice comes after data from the Health and Safety Executive showed a staggering 49% of sick days and two fifths of work-related ill health in 2016/17 were caused by work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

This amounts to 12.5 million lost work days.

Ben warns that being stressed over long periods of time can lower your immune system and cause health problems. But there are plenty of ways to reduce your stress levels, it adds:

Recognise the warning signs
Keep an eye out for the warning signs of stress. These can include: Feeling irritable or impatient; Feeling distracted, forgetful or losing attention to detail; Mood swings; Not being able to ‘switch off’; Becoming withdrawn; Under or over-eating; Increased consumption of nicotine, alcohol or drugs; Tense muscles; Headaches; Nausea and Insomnia; and Susceptibility to minor illnesses.

Identify the cause
Try to work out what’s making you feel stressed. If you’re not sure, try writing down what you’re doing each time you feel stressed. You may notice a pattern. Is there anything you can do now to take control of the situation? Sometimes making a to-do list and prioritising your tasks can help. Do the most urgent ones first and break big tasks into smaller chunks so that you can see yourself making progress. Don’t get too disheartened if you can’t complete them all at once.

Avoid more stress
Avoid taking on more tasks and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Taking on too much won’t help the person you’re doing the work for and it will only make you feel more stressed.

Try to avoid people who stress you out or, if this is unavoidable, try to sit down and have a calm chat with them about how they are making you feel. Be willing to compromise and accept some criticism yourself. It’s not easy, but try not to worry about the things you can’t change or control. Instead look at how to solve the problems that are within your control.

Exercise
Doing exercise releases endorphins, which improve your mood, as well as distracting you from any stress you’re experiencing. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy and try to fit it into your routine. Even a half-hour walk around the block can help to relieve tension. Another good form of exercise, and effective stress-buster, is to put on your favourite song and dance around the house to it. Try to let yourself go and raise your heart rate.

Get enough sleep
Almost 25% of people in Britain have problems with sleep on a regular basis. Getting enough good quality sleep is a crucial part of our overall wellbeing and can actually help reduce stress and anxiety. For adults, it’s recommended you get between 7-9 hours sleep per night – any less than that on an ongoing basis can have a negative effect on your wellbeing.

Reduce alcohol and nicotine consumption
Stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than non-smokers and adolescent smokers report increasing levels of stress as they develop regular smoking patterns. Nicotine dependency makes stress worse as smokers tend to rely on it to control their mood. It isn’t healthy to use alcohol as a way of de-stressing or coping with issues either.

Time to relax

Be kind to yourself and schedule in some ‘me’ time each week. Do something that makes you happy and relaxes you, such as reading a book, having a bath or listening to music. Clearing your mind can also help to reduce feelings of worry and stress. You don’t have to consider yourself spiritual to benefit from meditation.

Socialise

Having a support network of family, friends and colleagues improves your resilience to stress. Try to socialise regularly – having a laugh with friends and family is a great way of combatting stress. If you feel like things are getting on top of you then try to speak to someone. Opening up can not only lift some weight off your shoulders, but it may also help you think of ways to reduce your stress levels.

IMAGE CREDIT: Ben/Newspress