Deadlines, projects, presentations, emails, and meetings—how do we know if it’s time to take a breather and focus on self-care? There is a growing number of studies examining the link between long work hours, productivity, and health problems. And the results aren’t great.
Work needs to be done. I mean, we don’t want to let our team or our boss down. Therefore, it’s easy to slip into a work-consuming routine, but where do we draw the line? How many hours is too many? Studies report that working more than 50-55 hours a week is linked to many worries including slower productivity, health issues, and alcohol consumption.
Furthermore, overworking yourself can lead to burnout, among the other health problems mentioned. Luckily, there are ways to counter the growing daytime fatigue and unhealthy work obsessions. The top solution is self-care. Many people struggle with identifying when self-care is necessary. So, let’s break down what to look out for.
Here are the top eleven signs that you need to stop working so much and focus on your self-care:
Work-Mode = On
When you’re always thinking and talking in work-mode, it’s time to take a big step back. It’s common to occasionally take extra work home. However, it isn’t healthy to be in a constant state of worry and obsess over unfinished reports or upcoming projects. And if work is the only thing you’re able to talk about around friends and family, it’s taking up WAY too much of your time.
What can you do? Find a balance between your work and personal life. Work cannot be all-consuming. So, you need to find a way to de-stress and enjoy life.
All of this work has knocked the fun and passion right out of you. Motivation may feel like an impossible task when your heart is no longer in the work. Also, high-pressure environmental stressors have been linked to depression, which goes beyond simply feeling down.
What can you do? Find time to check-in with yourself mentally to see how you are actually feeling and go from there.
You’re Running in Circles
Stressed-out people generally obsess over the same problems. However, problems are meant to grow less complicated as you work through them. So, if this sounds like you, review how these solutions can make your life simpler.
What can you do? Break up a large problem into smaller tasks that are easier to tackle and far less demanding than the overarching issue. This will allow you to focus on what matters and keep moving forward. Not in circles.
Work Defines You
You are not your work. Even though your career is a large part of who you are, it is not everything. You should have activities and hobbies outside of work that bring you joy or help you to relax.
What can you do? If you’re unable to think of anything beyond work, try delegating some responsibilities or hire someone to pick up the slack. You don’t have to do absolutely everything.
Emotional and Physical Fatigue
If you’re working too much, you’re probably feeling stressed, and stress typically leads to a less-than-ideal sleep. Therefore, a common symptom of job burnout feels like you’re in a constant state of exhaustion throughout the day. Additionally, emotional exhaustion provides physical and emotional effects that influence behaviour. These symptoms develop with repeated stress over time and may go unnoticed.
What can you do? Dedicate a few days a week to getting the proper amount of sleep and try to reduce stress where you can. Maybe this means asking help from your coworkers or saying “no” to things when you already have enough on your plate.
Perfectionists will not allow for anything below their standards of perfection; it simply isn’t acceptable, which makes them hard to please. Even for themselves. This can lead to an unhealthy obsession regarding their work and a focus on perfection over productivity.
What can you do? Prioritize the essentials and determine what needs to be completed ASAP. Allocate time in your schedule for each task based on how long it should take. For example, an email doesn’t need to be re-read hundreds of times before sending it. So, provide enough time to complete each task diligently without going overboard.
Forgoing Mental Breaks
When you’re retaining so much information and problem-solving in a day, your brain is pumping and working it’s best to keep up. If you don’t provide enough downtime, how can you expect your brain to function at its peak level tomorrow? Furthermore, mental breaks can create an opportunity for learning new things too, so incorporate them into your daily life.
What can you do? Give your mind a chance to relax and recuperate with a mental break. Take a day off or book that vacation you’ve been thinking about. Even lose yourself in a good book for a few hours. Your brain will thank you.
You Reward Yourself With Alcohol
Most people enjoy a good drink now and then. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that workaholics or those working over 40 hours a week are more likely to drink “risky” levels of booze. BMJ classified “risky” levels as more than 14 drinks (a week) for women and more than 21 drinks (a week) for men. Higher alcohol consumption can also lead to additional health issues.
What can you do? Avoid turning to alcohol as your way of relaxing or unwinding for the day. Find alternative methods of enjoyment such as a new hobby, meditation, or catching up on any missed sleep.
Overworked people tend to lose sleep, which leads to feelings of exhaustion and irritation, and less motivation and patience. This may allow negative emotions to run amok on the most rational people; thus, creating unnecessary workplace drama. This issue is especially prevalent among people-pleasers who overcommit because they don’t say “no” when they should, and then feel that their work is undervalued by their bosses and coworkers.
What can you do? Learn how to say “no” to things, if it’s too much. If you allow your workload to take over, you may not be able to keep up, which can make it feel impossible to get some sleep. Don’t let a towering pile of work haunt you!
We wake up, sip coffee, answer emails, get to work, buy a quick dinner, and watch TV to unwind… does this sound familiar? Doing the same thing over and over can lead to neck and back pain, which doesn’t improve your self-care routine. Additionally, a study from the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal reveals that the more an individual is working grows their risk of greater back pain.
What can you do? Stretch or go for a ten-minute walk to get the blood flowing. Sometimes the problem is sitting in front of your computer for too long at a time.
Eye Strain and Headaches
If you’re staring at a computer screen for too long, you’re likely to suffer from a migraine or eye strain. Since most office jobs require too much screen time, this is a common symptom and is known as “the eternal headache” that employees learn to ignore during working hours.
What can you do? Incorporate breaks into your schedule! A five or ten-minute break after an hour of screen-time is highly beneficial. So, go grab a coffee or walk around the office to stretch your legs. Just do something away from your laptop.
If you’re feeling all or some of these signs then you’re probably in need of a mental break. When we’re focused on what needs to be done, we forget the most important act: self-care. Develop tools for building burnout resilience when it comes to your job, so you don’t overwork yourself. If you’re interested in learning more about self-care, read on with What’s Causing Employees to Burnout?