Stress can be a lonely experience. It is often not easily explained to the people who can do something about it, because they are likely to be the same people causing it.

They may be your boss, your manager, your clients, your staff, or your partner, your children, your parents, your investors, people you want to please or people you want to help.

To disclose your stress to them can sound like an admission of inadequacy, even failure. And you worry that the admission will add to their stress, which is probably the source of yours too.

And what is it anyway? It is more than just normal worry and pressure of work. It is an indefinable anxiety that makes it harder and harder to do the tasks you need to do. You can't explain it better than that — and that explanation makes you sound weak. So you say nothing.


Work-related stress is increasing in New Zealand, according to our Review feature today. A survey for Southern Cross and Business NZ has found a new 22.9 per cent of employers reporting an increase among their staff. Workload is the main cause. Increasing numbers of us are working longer hours and we are less able to put work aside when we get home.

These are the downsides of economic prosperity and modern technology. There is plenty of work to do and the mobile phone is always at hand when we are supposed to be resting.

Our report today focuses on employees' stress and what managers can do to help them. But stress tends to increase with authority and responsibilities.

The Council of Trade Unions, Worksafe NZ and other government agencies are giving employers regulations, guidance and education material to help them meet their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

That might make work easier for employees but it may add to stress on their employers and managers. They need to realise if they learn how to reduce stress levels in their staff, the workplace will be easier to manage and often more productive.

Organisational psychologist John Eatwell says stress is "a perception of not being able to cope". Perception is belief, not necessarily true.

Stressed people can cope if they can find time to rest, exercise regularly and enjoyably, prioritise tasks, share some of their workload if necessary, take breaks and sometimes put aside the phone.