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How to manage stress and build resilience

According to the Mental Health At Work Report, 60% of employees in the UK have experienced mental health issues due to work or where work was a related factor, and 31% have been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue. However, only 24% of managers have received training in mental health.

The stress effect

When young star in the finance world António Horta-Osório was appointed to become one of the youngest of Britain’s Big Five bank CEOs, heading Lloyds Banking Group, his arrival meant significant hope for the bank which was facing a number of challenges at the time. He worked tirelessly, often logging ninety-hour weeks, to turn the bank around.

Eight months later, he announced that he was taking medical leave of absence due to extreme stress and fatigue. His stress levels increased to the point where he developed a stress-induced insomnia preventing him from sleep for five days running. When the news of his leave of absence hit, the bank had lost £1 billion in market value.

In his own words, the pressure of taking responsibility for a banking colossus, with billions of pounds and thousands of jobs at stake shattered his mental health, resulting in admission to a mental health clinic where he received treatment for insomnia. With help of medical professionals and the support of his family he was able to make a full recovery. Not only did he return to work, he also led Lloyds Banking Group to become the first bank rescued by the government fully to repay taxpayers’ money. As a result of his personal experience, he has made mental health a big focus for the organisation and built a leading-edge approach to mental health support for his employees.

From setbacks to resilience

Of course, stress is not all bad. Short-term stress fuels us, leading to better mental and physical performance, for instance when it comes to public speaking or taking part in a race. Again, just like in any other case, balancing it right is key. A certain level of stress helps us perform better, but once it gets too high, it gets in our way – for example when giving out presentations, a little stress helps you perform, whereas too much stress can harm your performance. The trick is to harness the benefits of short-term stress while avoiding chronic stress.

Even though stress can knock us out, we have the ability to quickly recover from stressful situations and setbacks by tapping into our own natural resilience. Children who go through a stressful episode, such as their first day at school, bounce back immediately. They might be emotional when saying goodbye to their parents, but they get over it very quickly. The fact that children have the ability to bounce back immediately shows how resilient our nervous system is. Adults however often struggle to handle stress and bounce back – in fact, for some it takes a lifetime to bounce back from stressful periods or frustrations, and some might never get over them.

Studies show that the way we perceive stressful situations can help us regulate our emotions to a certain extent, however when we find ourselves in difficult situations, talking ourselves out of feeling stressed is often challenging.

At Acumen we offer a wide range of customised programmes designed to solve real life challenges. Our stress management programme is ideally suited for anyone who plans to improve their personal effectiveness by developing good stress management and those who feel that managing their own health will improve their performance. The programme enables delegates to understand stress and its effects, to raise awareness, analyse the sources of stress, cope with change, interpersonal relationships and leadership, increase energy levels and improve performance. To find out more how we can help you, please contact

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