Wellbeing - Runners

Dealing with stress

At the University of Exeter we are committed to promoting and continually building a Positive Work Environment (PWE) which makes Exeter a great place to work; supporting all staff to thrive and enjoy the work we do.

We recognise that everyone is different and people’s tolerance of stress varies. What is important is that we have the capability and support mechanisms to ensure you know where to go and what to do if you are having a stress reaction.

Our University vision is that if you seek support, you feel you have been listened to and the support you received works for you.

The Managing Wellbeing standard sets out how stress is managed in the workplace and there is information and training courses available for staff and supervisors/managers. 

What is stress?

Stress is not the same for everybody. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Stress can sometimes be good for us and we all need a certain amount of stress to keep us sharp and motivated. However, a person's ability to deal with stress and pressure is not limitless and while a reasonable level of stress may help you to become more alert and focused, excessive stress can have serious long-term effects on both health and work performance.

There are many potential causes of stress and not all of them will be work-related. Potential ‘stressors’ can include:

  • difficulties with relationships (at home or at work)
  • lack of job security
  • work overload
  • financial problems

Our ability to deal with stressors varies according to how we are feeling and any other stressors we have at the time. A small amount of stress is often experienced as a challenge, but when stress becomes overwhelming we start to feel unwell and unable to cope.

Ways to help deal with stress

The University has a number of initiatives to help you deal with stress from a range of sources. These are listed below with details on how to obtain further information.

Self-assess your current level wellbeing

Wellbeing self-assessment tools can be a helpful way for us to check if we are effectively managing our own physical and mental health and get advice on how we could choose to make improvements. You will get tailored feedback along with guidance and recommendations. You can access our wellbeing self-assessment tool here.

Talk about it

Care first provides confidential, impartial advice and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service is free for you (University of Exeter staff members), and your family (must be living at the same address as you), to access whenever you need. You can also talk to your manager, HR Service, dignity and respect advisors, bullying and harassment advisors, Union Representative or your colleagues who will support you.

The Dignity & Respect Adviser’s Network is a group of trained members of staff who are available for consultations with individuals who may be feeling harassed by a work situation. Advisers are able to support individual through various solutions, these may include use of the University’s Harassment Policy or signposting to other services/agencies. The list of advisers is available on the equality and diversity website.

Get involved

The University runs and hosts a range of sport and wellness activities which any members of staff are welcome to join. These activities include lunchtime walking or jogging, gym and circuits sessions, mindfulness classes and Tai Chi.


Training is available to help employees with stress and mental health. Download the Mental Health Training Brochure for further details.

Stress symptoms

Not ‘listening’ to your mind or body is a sure step to becoming unwell. Sometimes people aren’t even aware that they are not coping. Recognition of a problem means that appropriate coping mechanisms can be sought at an early stage, before a negative physical or emotional effect is experienced. Remember the cause may be home, work, personal life, or any combination of these.

Physical Symptoms of StressPsychological Symptoms of Stress
Hot sweats
Raised blood pressure
Sleep disturbance
Change in appetite/comfort eating
Increased drinking of alcohol and/or coffee
Muscle aches and pains/headaches
Breathlessness/tight chest
Increase in minor ailments
Poor co-ordination - clumsiness
Irritability /mood swings
Poor concentration
Inability to keep things clear and in perspective
Preoccupying thoughts (ruminations)
Storing unresolved issues in your mind
Impulsiveness /over reaction
Worry /over concern
Loss of control
Loss of confidence
Anticipation of failure
Worrying about the future
Guilt/worrying about the past
Poor short term memory
Anger outbursts
Emotional withdrawal
Lowered self esteem
Pre-occupation with health
Loss of patience and tolerance

“State of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances: ‘he’s obviously under a lot of stress’ [in combination]: Oxford English Dictionary

“The adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them”. Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

“Stress is not a medical diagnosis, but severe stress that continues for a long time may lead to a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or more severe mental health problems”: Mind.org