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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the questions we are frequently asked about stress and stress management - and the answers. If you would like to ask ISMA any further questions, why not,

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What is Stress?

Perhaps the first thing to say is that, unlike pressure, stress is never good for you and never a positive thing. Stress creates unhealthy biological reactions, and prolonged stress can lead to both physical and mental health breakdown.

The HSE define stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them"

Raymond & Wilson define stress as "a mental and/or physical response, by an individual, to an inappropriate level of pressure whether real or perceived".

Lazarus defines stress as "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that the demands placed on them exceed the resources the individual has available".

What is the Difference between Stress and Pressure?

Based on Lazarus's definition, while you perceive you have the ability and resources (internal and external) to cope with the demands placed on you, you are subject to pressure and not stress.

Perhaps this is why so many people talk of positive stress, when really they mean positive pressure.

Is Stress an Illness?

No, stress in itself is not an illness.

It is a response / reaction to excessive or prolonged pressure / challenges and this can cause mental and/or physical ill health.

As an employer do I really need to anything about stress in the workplace?

Yes. If you have 5 or more employees you are required to carry out an organisational Risk Assessment for stress and take effective action to manage and where possible prevent it.

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Is there a Law relating to Stress which, I must comply with as an employer?

Currently no, but there are Acts and Regulations with which you must comply. For example:

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 dictate that organisations of greater than 5 people are required to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 organisations are required to take measures to control that risk.

If you are unsure about your obligations, contact us for more information.

I understand that as an employer I must have a Stress Policy in place. Where can I find information on how to write a Stress Policy?

HSE and CIPD recommend a relevant Stress Policy is best practice and should include a Management Standards and / or a Psychosocial Risk Management approach. Certainly, having a Stress Policy is best practice and where appropriate, the risk assessment will recommend that a Stress Policy should be held. The Health and Safety Executive have a model Stress Policy on their web site. Click Here to download an example policy in pdf format from Any of our members can advise on Risk Assessment, Stress Policy and positive approaches to managing stress in the workplace.

To find an ISMAUK member who can help you.

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We are a registered charity whose purpose is to promote sound knowledge and best practice in promoting Stress Prevention and Wellbeing. Your donations help us achieve our goals and we really appreciate your support.

About ISMA

The International Stress Management Association [ISMAUK] is a registered charity and the lead professional body for workplace and personal Stress Management, Well-being and Performance. We promote sound knowledge and best practice, nationally and internationally.

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