“Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don’t really know how to do NOTHING. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype — the overstressed executive who goes on vacation but who cannot relax.” – Elizabeth Gilbert; Eat Pray Love
Work and Health
Everybody has to work. In doing so we are supporting ourselves, our families, our need for purpose and if we are lucky, fulfilment. Yet statistics show that there is a dangerous inability to not only know when to switch off from work, but to understand how we might be affecting our health by working too much and not living a balanced life. Here are some signs you might be working too much:
1. Health problems
Ailments regarding health can range from the largely unobserved world of mental health problems, to other physical issues such as obesity. You find yourself eating too much or eating too few meals. Joints have become as so stiff that you can’t even afford to do vigorous exercise.
2. Cognitive problems
You may be dealing with poor memory. Things people said just minutes ago to you are always forgotten.
3. Poor interpersonal relationships
Your relationships with family and friends have become a bit distant. You have little time to spend with them. When you finally go out with them or have a meal with them, your anxious mind cannot stop thinking about work-related stuff. Such stress puts a barrier between you and your loved ones.
4. Have to bring unfinished work home
You are unable to differentiate between work time and leisure time as your workload increases. You cannot stop thinking about your work even if you’re on vacation.
5. Always feel tired
You may have difficulty waking up in the morning, have an over-reliance on coffee, or find it hard to concentrate. You feel like you’re at least 10 years older in just one year.
6. Dominated by negative thoughts
Your thought process has become agitated and stressed. Small things can irritate you though you don’t want to be like that.
7. Lower level of satisfaction
You may find it harder to feel satisfied in the things that you used to. Those things lack their colors and you sometimes doubt the meaning of your whole life.
8. Easily frustrated
You are easily irritated and feel frustrated with many things.
9. Poor performance at work
Your professionalism and expertise may be slipping from its best level. You still try hard but the performance is not the same anymore, as your body cannot sustain such exceeding workload.
10. Weaker self-control
You may find yourself giving in to things easier because you feel deflated or over-run.
Beware of the bias social proof
Working overtime seems to have become common business for many workers today. Unfortunately it is now the norm to get a phone call saying that your friend or loved one has been “held back” at the office. There are a few reasons for this, and pressures play a decent part in it. You may feel guilty about leaving when there is still work to be done, or when others have left work that needs doing. You may feel guilty that others are staying behind when you are ready to leave. This susceptibility is called ‘Social Proof’.
To avoid this, we should always be aware of our rights, and what we want and are entitled to. If what you have signed up for is to work until a certain point, work until that time and make it a point to leave then. Practice this. This is the job you were hired to do and you are doing it. If you are required to do more it should be agreed upon before hand, and not after. You are doing nothing wrong.
Try ‘different instead of ‘harder’
When you push yourself too hard, you stop enjoying yourself. And while we don’t always love work, we shouldn’t loathe it. Instead of pushing yourself harder, try a different tact. Try different ways to work with your time rather than spending so much time at the workplace. Have specific goals in mind. Instead of saying “I will stay at work until this is done” perhaps say “I will get the hardest parts of this done now, then when I come back to it in the morning, it will be a breeze to finish”. That way you can finish at a reasonable time, and be able to enjoy your free time with less stress.