It’s normal to feel pressure to perform at work. The people who get promotions are the ones who demonstrate commitment to the job and probably even do some overtime without complaining. But when work gets to the point where it overshadows your entire life, that’s cause for alarm.
You need to chill out sometimes and put your career in perspective. It’s not just work hours that can push you to the breaking point. Factors like your commute, work environment, and whether or not you feel appreciated by your boss can also contribute to burnout. If you have gotten to the point where you can’t enjoy your time off, you may be working yourself to death. Watch out for these 7 signs that you need to reevaluate, stat.
1. You need alcohol to turn off the work thoughts
After 40 hours of work per week, anyone will feel the need to spend a day or two decompressing. But if the job goes 7 days a week, you are denied that crucial rebalancing time. In this case, some people turn to alcohol.
Drinking can shut down cycling work thoughts but it also takes a toll on the body. Drinking too much also negatively impacts relationships and ups your risk of several life-threatening conditions.
Men should never drink more than 21 drinks per week; women should stop by 14 drinks. But even this level of consumption signals that you’re struggling to manage life without a buzz.
2. Your productivity slips
Humans really aren’t built to be productive every minute of every day. In fact, you can work insanely long hours but not get any more done than a person who left earlier. That’s because fatigue sets in after awhile to steal your focus and motivation.
It can help to make a to-do list that focuses on your top three priorities every day. With better organization, you may be able to knock out your responsibilities in less time. Your list will likely also reveal places where you can delegate or combine tasks.
3. You’re missing sleep
It’s not news that when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to be tired and cranky during the day. Whether the work you bring home keeps you up late, or you struggle to turn off your uneasy brain, being tired during the day decreases your productivity. It also fuels that vicious cycle that forces you to work after hours.
Chronic fatigue puts you at risk for problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Make sure to give yourself regular breaks throughout your work day to keep your productivity up, and then give yourself permission to leave work at the office.
4. You feel depressed
Depression is a common side effect of a stressful situation, and the loss of any kind of work-life balance definitely qualifies as stressful. Studies confirm that people who work more than 11 hours per day are more likely to battle depression than those who stick to 7 or 8 hours.
A good way to counteract situational depression is to add more self-care to your day. Mindfulness meditation is one strategy that can calm and center you. Setting some limits around when you’re available for work is also helpful. If you’re really struggling, a therapist can help you talk through your problems and offer support for a change.
5. Your heart is struggling
This is a symptom you may not notice on a day-to-day basis, but too much work stress can raise your level of cortisol. Cortisol is rough on your heart and increases the risk for coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. If you’ve been under a ton of stress lately, it’s worth it to pop into the doc for a quick checkup.
In the meantime, help out your heart by moving more often throughout the day. If you have any say in it, try conducting stand-up or even walking meetings. Head out for a stroll around the block at lunch time, or spend 15 minutes walking some stairs when you need a break. It’ll help your body process the cortisol, improve heart health, and clear your mind.
6. Your back and neck are aching
At work we typically sit in the same position all day long, which tends to produce muscle tension in the back and neck. Interestingly, for women the pain is more often in the neck, while for men the back hurts more.
Beyond making sure that you move around during the day, you can try alternating between sitting and standing, and rearranging your area every so often so that your neck is not always turned the same direction to look at your computer. If the soreness doesn’t go away, an occupational therapist can help work out the kinks.
7. Your relationships are suffering
Since you’re here, we’re going to guess that you have experienced that look of disappointment in the eyes of your partner, child, or friend when you say you can’t spend time with them because of work. And even when you do get together, you may be so stressed, tired, or depressed that you’re not really present.
Remember that while work is important, your relationships also need to be nurtured. Make sure you put fun activities on your schedule and prioritize them. Make at least a few hours a week sacred so that your loved ones can count on you being there.
It can be scary to think about telling your boss that you need more balance in your life. You also need that job and it may feel like the company has all the power. But if you are contributing to the success of your department, you have some pull as well. Your boss won’t want to lose you as doing so could cost them significant time and money.
A good strategy is to speak with your supervisor about your accomplishments and contributions before moving into the fact that your increasing work hours have made you less efficient. A happy and productive employee is ultimately in the company’s best interest, and chances are good that you can negotiate a better situation for yourself. You really have nothing to lose – the alternative is working yourself into an early grave. What good is that to anybody?