It’s Okay to NOT Overwork Yourself
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During my senior year of high school, I traveled 2-3 hours every day (which is exhausting when you have to leave at 5 am and get home at 8 pm most nights) on public transportation to get to school. I juggled taking a full schedule of upper-level classes, extra-curricular activities that kept me at school until 5 pm or 6 pm, and, of course, college applications. Most nights, I would come home, eat, and immediately knock out as soon as I hit my bed, of course after writing the mandatory college essay or completing extra work I received from my tutor. I was 17 then and it was one of the most exhausting schedules I have ever had. I did not feel like I was “doing it all” or “accomplished” as hustle and grind culture might suggest, I felt tired. Constantly. I was cranky, unhappy, and barely holding on to my sanity. I was overworked and I did not realize it.
We’ve all been there before. Whether you’re a student juggling two jobs, managing your schoolwork, and participating in a sport, or a mom working 12 hour days, coming home to cook and tend to your children, and trying to find time to fit in your yoga classes, we often have the tendency to overwork ourselves. If you find you often feel worn out and tired throughout the week, not really experiencing life but scrambling to get everything completed, and when you do finally get a break you just crash, never really taking care of yourself the way you know you should, you may be overworking yourself.
According to Feeling Overworked: When Work Becomes Too Much, a study conducted by Ellen Galinsky, Stacy S. Kim, and James T. Bond, one out of three employees in the United States are overworked or overwhelmed by their jobs. The study defined feeling overworked as a psychological state that may affect attitudes, behavior, social relationships, and health both on and off the job. Many participants in the study felt overwhelmed because they were working more hours or days than they actually prefer and 55% of people felt overworked at some point on the job, even if it was not constant or frequent. The study, which included participants 18 and over who were not self-employed, was only conducted with a sample of 1000 people, so imagine how common feeling overworked is. Not to mention, many people do not realize they are being overworked as it is a normality for them.
Hustle or “rise and grind” culture also severely contributes to overworking. The toil glamor, also known as performative workaholism, of hustle culture applauds overworking and burnout because it signals a hardworking and dedicated employee. Many people brag about their “hustle” and have the idea that it is cool to push yourself to the max each minute of every day. Hustle culture brags about no weekends off or vacations but when did no rest become a good thing? According to Psychology Today, “when the hustle culture drives you, you unwittingly relinquish your personal power and become a slave to internal and external pressures such as deadlines, work demands, or pleasing friends and loved ones. You grow so accustomed to being on autopilot that you’re not attuned to your surroundings or yourself” and this leads to being overworked or burned out.
So, what are some signs you may be overworked? If you have trouble disconnecting, you may be overworked. It is okay to get a break from technology and using it too much makes it hard to rest. According to Dr. John Delony, since technology—with its bright screens—creates a constant stimulation for your brain, it can make you addicted to the stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, that your brain releases. This makes it difficult to completely disconnect from the outside world.
Another sign you may be overworked is your health declining. Listening to your body is important because it will always show the effects of overworking. According to an article by Ken Cole, Some of the symptoms of overwork may be:
- Exhaustion, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating
- Stress—feeling tense and on edge
- Anxiety and depression
- Weight gain/loss and poor eating habits
Overworking can be shown in your physical and mental health. So, if you feel something is off, it is important to listen to your body and take care of it. Overwork can even lead to serious issues like heart disease and contribute to behaviors like alcoholism due to increased stress.
It could also be a sign you're overworked if you feel like you’ve lost your passion. It can be difficult to sustain the joy of pursuing your passions when you’re busy grinding all day. Your excitement can be lost due to the demanding hours where you never have the time to really enjoy what you’re doing. So, if you’ve lost your drive and passion for your work, it could be a sign you might be doing it a little too much.
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Here are some tips for not feeling as overworked. However, quick disclaimer, I am not a medical professional and if you feel as if you should seek professional guidance, please do so.
- Ask yourself, “Is this really necessary?”
Think about the task and how important it is and question if it needs to get done? Do you need to have that meeting? Do you need to respond to that email? In many cases, there are small tasks that you can save for later or cut out altogether.
2. Give yourself time for rest
When’s the last time you had a nap? Or took a second and just took a breath. With many of us on go all the time, we forget it’s okay to stop and smell the roses. Get up from your desk and go on a quick walk, I promise you’ll feel better.
3. Set boundaries
Many of us, when it comes to work and school, forget how to set boundaries. Yes, I can come in an hour early or stay two hours late. Yes, I can complete these tasks for this organization. No, you always can’t. If you weren’t scheduled to work, they are not entitled to your time. No one can or should be on the clock 24/7. Set the time you’ll stop working or don’t work and tell people those boundaries!
4. Control your distractions
Most people are distracted over 30 times an hour. This means going from answering emails to writing a paper, to answering a text, it can feel like you’re doing a lot and never focusing on one thing. If you schedule blocks of time where you’ll turn off alerts or specifically focus on one task, you’ll be more productive and feel less overwhelmed.
5.Make a schedule
Having a to-do list or list of things you want to get done each day can let you easily visualize your schedule and introduce breaks for yourself. This way, you can really see what you're doing and when you have time when you can rest for a bit!
Many studies have shown that if you exercise regularly, you’ll be more resistant to stress. According to the Exercise, Stress Resistance, and Central Serotonergic Systems research, physical activity enhances the way our body handles stress and releases dopamine -- a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for happiness.
So, maybe the next time you have 3 essays due but you pick up an extra shift at work and you still have to finish a virtual seminar, maybe try not picking up the extra shift, putting off the seminar, and/or asking for an extension on one or two of the essays. I know it’s finals season and people often have the tendency to praise overworking but maybe just take a second and rest. If you feel you may be overworked, you probably are. Take time for yourself to do what you love and to take care of yourself.