WORKSHOP: PERSONAL TRAINER ... STEPHEN BUBB - I'm stressed at work. Every night go home to my family, exhausted and irritable - but, even then, I can't sleep properly. I'm on a treadmill ... Is this normal?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO)

You are not alone. Long working hours are the norm in today's work culture. Here at ACEVO, one of our surveys shows that nearly 80 per cent of third sector organisations do not have a work/life balance policy.

Pressure is not always a bad thing, but when that pressure becomes unrelenting, problems start to occur.

The symptoms of stress can manifest themselves in a variety of ways.

Sleeping problems, irritability and exhaustion are frequently mentioned and, if untreated, can lead to more serious ill health.

Problems ignored are likely to affect your health and can lead to time off work, long-term sick leave and sometimes ill-health retirement. But if stress is dealt with early, it could protect your health and wellbeing and can be dealt with relatively easily.

Dealing with stress is not a simple repair job. There is no one cause of stress and there can be no simple solution. But that doesn't mean that you can't take positive, practical steps to start coping with it. First, recognise stress within yourself. If the symptoms are serious, see your GP. Don't wait until you're in a crisis - get confidential, professional counselling and support.

Next, identify what stresses you. Are there particular times when you are stressed? Is it at certain periods in the day, or during particular tasks that you do in a normal working week? Does a pattern emerge?

Consider how you could alter the situation. Identify achievable goals and then take small steps to attain them. Work with colleagues to make positive changes and tell the chief executive if a process is not working.

Healthy environments are important and if you take active responsibility for your organisation, you'll benefit yourself and those around you. But be realistic: change what you can and work realistically with what you can't.

Work demands a lot of you: don't say "Yes

if what you actually mean is "No". Every now and then, put yourself first and do an activity that forces you to think about something other than work. Ring-fence time for yourself and do the things you enjoy without feeling guilty. Relaxation and leisure time are not treats - they are essential ingredients in a healthy lifestyle.

Above all, keep sight of your achievements and the positive impact you have on your organisation and your colleagues.

- Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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