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International Stress Awareness Week 2023

30 October 2023

Stress Awareness Week

International Stress Awareness Week is taking place for the sixth time this year, running from Monday 30 October to Friday 3 November. It was created by ISMA, the International Stress Management Association, in 2018 to raise awareness about stress and its harmful effects, and to campaign against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues.

The highlight is Stress Awareness Day on Wednesday 1st November 2023 when ISMA will be delivering an online Global Stress Summit.

To bring attention to International Stress Awareness Week, and the important work that ISMA is doing, we spoke to three Graphnet employees to discuss how they feel about stress and the stress management tactics that they turn to when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Remember, if you are a Graphnet employee, we have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that can help with 24/7 counselling and advice. Other sources of support include MINDMental Health UK, and Samaritans. We would also always recommend reaching out to your GP if you feel like your mental health is affecting your daily life.

Katie Williams, HR Coordinator

Katie Williams HR Coordinator


What does stress mean to you – what is it?  

Stress to me is when you have a lot to do in your everyday life or at work and this can sometimes get too much to handle and can lead to you feeling depleted and panicked.

As well as being a HR professional, you have a psychology background. Has that given you any insights or tools into managing wellbeing?

I think my psychological background has shown me that it’s ok to ask for help, and that feeling stressed or down is a normal feeling experienced by lots of people on a daily basis and being able to talk to people and have a good support network is key.

What does the HR team do to help Graphnet employees manage stress?

Every member of the HR team is there to help if anyone is stressed about home or work life. We have also started a new initiative called Wellbeing Wednesdays. Our first session on Mindfulness was back in September, and this highlighted some great tips and coping mechanisms for stress. We also held a Stepathon last month, to help encourage people to get up and moving as exercise is so important for physical and mental wellbeing.

What do you do to manage stress at work?

Prioritisation really helps me manage my stress at work - writing a to do list and prioritising tasks. This helps me feel like I don’t have million things to do at once and helps me not forget anything. I’m also not afraid to ask anyone in my team for help if I need it. Even though everyone is busy, and you feel like you don’t want to disturb anyone, it’s good to have a supportive environment where everyone is helpful to each other.

Ren Virrey, Data Scientist

Ren Virrey Data Scientist

What does stress mean to you – what is it?

Stress, for me, is like trying to juggle all the balls in the air. This involves managing work, running the non-profit organization – Spitfire Volleyball, and staying connected with friends and family outside the country. It's the feeling of pressure and worry about meeting expectations, deadlines, and, of course, making a positive impact in both my job and the community. It's like playing a tough match in a volleyball tournament, where you need to stay focused and agile to handle all the challenges life throws your way!

You do a lot within the community/sports. Has that given you any insights or tools re: how to manage stress and wellbeing? 

Absolutely! Being involved in the community and sports has taught me the importance of balance and teamwork. Managing stress for me is about having a support system which I also get from teammates, friends, and colleagues. They provide encouragement, share experiences, and offer help when needed, fostering camaraderie and shared responsibility.

Plus, staying physically active through sports not only boosts energy but also clears my mind and reduces tension, which is a natural stress reliever for my body and mind. I have learned the importance of dedication balanced with self-care. Commitment is vital, but recognizing when to recharge is equally essential, which is a lesson applied effectively in the workplace.

What do you do to manage stress at work?

To manage stress and stay organized, I usually create a to-do list and prioritize tasks. Breaking down big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks helps me feel less overwhelmed. I also make sure to take short breaks throughout the day, such as having a quick chat with a colleague or a video call with my family, as well as dedicating a few minutes to deep breathing. These activities help me recharge and maintain focus.

Moreover, I'm very fortunate to have a supportive team (Population Health Team) here at Graphnet. We communicate openly about our challenges and share ideas for solutions. And, of course, a good cup of tea (I'm cutting down on coffee because it makes me acidic, haha) or a brief moment of relaxation can work wonders. It's all about finding those little moments of respite in the midst of a busy workday.

Fiona Gillanders, Chief Product Officer

Fiona Gillanders Chief Product Officer

What does stress mean to you?

Stress is a pretty inevitable part of life, but for me it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if I’ve got a deadline, it gives me a bit of a kick to get stuff done. I actually quite enjoy that type of stress! On the other, there’s the nagging, chronic sort of stress that can really wear me down. That’s the kind I find much harder to deal with, probably because more often than not it comes hand in hand with some self-imposed expectations that aren’t being met. But still, in general, I think stress overall keeps me moving forward.

What do you do to manage stress at work? Any advice for others?

When it comes to managing stress at work sometimes it’s the simple things that help the most. If it’s not raining, I like to step outside, enjoy the fresh air, find a bug and just spend a couple of minutes watching it go about its day… I find it a nice way to detach and reground myself.

Exercise also helps me a lot, particularly with a team. I really feel the absence of a good run around when I’m injured or haven’t managed to fit some sort of sports in! But everyone needs to find what works for them. I tried using a meditation app for a while, but that didn’t work for me. Something I’ve been giving a go recently is asking myself, "Will this matter in a day, a week, or a year?" More often than not the answer to at least one of those is no... that helps me put things in perspective.

So, my advice would be to try a few different things out and see what sticks! There’s also a really good TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on "How to Make Stress Your Friend” – that’s worth a listen!

Any other thoughts?

I think it is much harder when we are working remotely. We need to work harder and be much more intentional to connect through a screen. I’m not an extrovert, but I certainly find it much harder to be stressed when I’ve spent time in person with my colleagues.