We are concerned that there has been an increase in reports of stress injury resulting from a lack of procedures for effectively managing return to work (after sick leave for stress, stress-related and stress injuries) and are looking into developing some resources to help members identify if they are at risk, and providing training to our caseworkers to better support cases that arise. If you think you need help, or are interested in accessing training to support people experiencing stress, please contact us.

Wellbeing Meeting

On 1st May 2019, we held a meeting attended by departmental reps and other UCU members to look at wellbeing and stress in the workplace.  We were pleased to welcome Adam Lincoln, Bargaining and Negotiations Official (Health, Safety and Sustainability) from UCU national, who spoke on the campaign around workload and stress.

Members raised concerns from bullying to (non-existent) workload models, not enough time for students, differential and biased feedback, and exhaustion – all huge contributors to stress, potentially causing long term damage through stress injury.

Warwick UCU will be looking to work with UCU national and with the University to address some or all of these areas, starting with training and development of a network of workload health and safety reps.  Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved.

For more information, and a plethora of downloadable materials (some of these are available below), see the UCU workload campaign page ‘It’s your time’.

TUC Safety Reps and safety committees
It’s your time – overview
It’s your time – checklist
It’s your time – flowchart
It’s your time – legal rights
TUC & HSE guidance for tackling workplace stress
Workload inspections factsheet

Mental Health Awareness Week

National Mental Health Awareness Week will take place 13 to 19 May 2019.

The theme for 2019 is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Mental Health Awareness Week, body image banner

Last year, the theme was how to tackle stress and help improve mental health.

Click on the images below to visit some of the many sites working towards supporting people with Stress.

Mental Health Foundation


The resources below were provided by Sue Johnston-Wilder, our most experienced Case Worker for Workplace Stress and Stress Injury.

  • ISMA – Founded in 1974 as the American Association for the Advancement of Tension Control (AAATC), the Association was renamed as the International Stress and Tension Control Society (ISTCS) in 1981 due to international interest. In 1984, the UK and French branches were formed and the organisation was renamed International Stress Management Association (ISMA) in 1989. With branches in 8 countries and members in many other countries, ISMA has a global reach.
  • The 60 second tranquilliser – This is a quick and easy breathing technique to bring about rapid relief when needed.
    Using positive thoughts will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you to switch off your fight/flight
    reaction. It is the perfect solution to rapidly calm nerves, focus the mind and help you to think more clearly.
  • Individual Stress Risk Assessment Tool – This Risk Assessment has been trialled in a large Scottish Council with 155 managers who found it extremely helpful to identify the cause(s) of stress related issues, allowing them to work with their colleague to instigate appropriate interventions.
  • Recognising the Symptoms of stress – Stress is an adverse reaction to too much (or too little) pressure. These are some of the symptoms that are indicators of too much pressure that can come from yourself, work, home, any combination of, or maybe even all three. People exhibiting some of these signs of stress, will eventually become less productive and effective in the workplace.
  • Why your job might be making you sick – Feeling under pressure at work is common, but it is also serious and could lead to anxious and depressive feelings. That’s the conclusion from a large study by researchers at the Black Dog

When you meet pressure with resilience, you thrive (e.g. Seligman, 2003). However, when the pressure you are experiencing increases beyond your current level of resilience, you are at risk of stress injury. Your awareness and resilience can be developed. We propose all members become aware of the hand model of the brain and two tools for personal use:

  • Growth Zone model (Lugalia et al., 2013)
  • Signs of stress monitoring tool (Ann McCracken)
The Hand Model of the Brain

Distinguished neurologist Dan Siegel (2010) has developed a simple model we can use in developing awareness of anxiety and stress in the moment.

The Growth Zone Model

This model was developed in the context of maths anxiety and avoidance, but found useful in managing other stressful situations in the moment.

Figure 1: Growth Zone Model: (Lugalia et al., 2013)

This model depicts three ‘zones’ or ways in which you might experience and deas with situations, using a psychosocial model of perceived risk.

The comfort zone is characterised by feeling safe and confident, being able to use existing knowledge to good effect and not experiencing stress.

The danger zone is experienced as a place of danger, stress and lack of security. In this zone a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction may be experienced: perhaps battling against (rather than engaging with) the scenario, fleeing, or experiencing an inability to think or react cogently. Danger zone reactions occur because the primitive part of the brain reacts to physical and social threat (such as being embarrassed or excluded); the amygdala (‘the alarm system’) triggers the release of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol; useful for reacting to physical danger but not amenable to pre-frontal cortex activity (Siegel, 2010) such as thinking clearly.

The zone which lies between these two areas is where the individual can experience optimal growth (see also Zaretskii, 2009). There is enough challenge to learn and develop one’s skills, including managed risks meaning mistakes can be learned from. In becoming a resilient academic, being in the growth zone is optimised by the support of being part of a learning community encouraging questioning and exploring strategies, thus helping to mitigate feelings of threat that can prevent healthy engagement.

Sources of support with short-term stress
‘Signs of stress’ longer term monitoring tool

Most of us know that you use high revs on a car to get out of trouble, but if you do so for prolonged periods the car develops problems, and runs inefficiently. Similarly our brains are only designed to run on high revs for short periods, know as ‘flight or fight’, to get us out of trouble. When you spend time in the stress zone, or on high revs, longer term, you begin to experience signs and symptoms. Ann McCracken, stress consultant and former Vice President of the International Stress Management Association, has developed a check list that can be used at intervals like a stress MOT.

Sources of support with long-term stress
  • GP
  • Individual stress risk assessment
  • UCU case worker

Please contact Warwick UCU for support at any time via your local departmental contact, our Health and Safety officer, or via email to