Headache? Nausea? Indigestion? No, this isn’t an ad for Pepto Bismol. They’re signs of burnout. Despite what many may think, overworking can sneakily manifest itself as covert physical symptoms, making it extremely easy to miss the tell-tale signs before something serious happens.
A study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization reported that those who work more than 54 hours per week were putting themselves at grave risk, with more than half a million people dying from coronary heart disease and stroke.
Scarily, “death by overwork” can slowly creep up on you out of nowhere. “Ultimately, the problem of overwork—and the ill health it breeds—will continue if we don’t make changes in our working lives,” BBC’s Christina Ro wrote in a piece. “Then there are the changes in behavior. Those logging long hours may be sleeping little, barely exercising, eating unhealthy foods, and smoking and drinking to cope.”
Unfortunately, looming deadlines and a growing email inbox may make you feel like you’re just not properly managing your schedule, or making avoidable mistakes but it may be a subconscious sign that your mind has had enough. For instance, a workplace survey commissioned by Red Bull and Glassdoor found that nearly half (48 percent) of employed American are distracted by fatigue at work, causing them to make mistakes and even doze off. Tiredness is a bigger distraction to workers than social media (19 percent) and personal communications (35 percent).
So, how can you tell the difference? Here are a few signs to help identify the red flags of being overworked.
As Fast Company points out, the signs of looming burnout can look like:
You’ve stopped taking care of yourself
Your sleep is out of whack
You’re skipping meals or not eating enough
You’re not getting in enough exercise to balance out stress
You’re turning to substances like drugs or alcohol when overwhelmed
You’re neglecting important relationships and missing out on crucial social time
HOW TO DEAL
Although it may seem impossible to do your job well while taking care of yourself, but it’s possible.
Turn away from hyper-connectedness
Technology allows for incredible strides to take place in the workplace, but constantly being tethered to devices can wreck havoc on your nervous. Constant notifications and alerts can keep your body on high alert and make rest seem fleeting. Opt to limit your screen time, initiate the “focus” function on your phone and computer and filter only high-priority notifications to come through during the day.
Also it may be helpful to create a rule for yourself where you only view and respond to email during typical work hours to help create boundaries for others and yourself.
Take time off, for real
Although more and more companies are rolling out unlimited PTO and vacation time for their employee, it actually works the opposite where workers are less susceptible to take time off.
Research has shown that people actually take less time off when offered unlimited PTO than when given a set number of days for vacation each year, which more or less means unlimited PTO is a trap for employees, AttendanceBot.com points out.
Overall, listen to your body and try your best to give it what it needs. Your work will always be there. Your health may not.