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Here’s How You Can Work Hard Without Burning Yourself Out

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By Priyanjana Pramanik:

Stress is a perfectly normal reaction to any kind of physical or mental demand. It’s just the way our body reacts to an adjustment or response. But today, most of our stress is work-related and almost always caused by overworking. Workaholism is often called the ‘respectable addiction’, but there is nothing respectable about the toll it takes on your body. And yet even without overworking, work-related stress is bound to appear. This article will tell you about the hazards of pushing yourself too hard, and how to make sure you don’t end up breaking down.

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What are the health risks of overworking?

– Burn-out and stress: Stress itself is a normal part of the way your body functions. The problem is when the body is repeatedly exposed to stress over a prolonged period of time, causing a condition called burn-out. The symptoms related to burn-out include fatigue, headaches, weakened immunity, high blood pressure and chest pains.

– Effect on body processes: Overwork causes fatigue and fatigue disrupts almost every vital body process, sometimes in unexpected and shocking ways. For example, sleep-deprivation affects the body’s ability to synthesize insulin, which is used to metabolise sugar, putting the person at risk of diabetes.

– Chronic insomnia: You’d expect to be able to go straight to sleep after a long day. But any kind of worry or stress elevates your heart rate, increases muscle tension and causes your body to release stress hormones. They have more of an impact at night, either not letting you go to sleep in the first place or waking you up in the middle of the night.

– Mental health disorders: Work-related stress is a leading cause of anxiety and panic attacks, and is also the root of other psychological problems. The World Health Organization believes that around 35% of the cases of work-related stress lead to mental health issues.

– Fatal consequences: The corporate sector comes with its own occupational hazards, and the Japanese have a name for them: ‘karoshi’. The word is used to describe cases in which an employee dies suddenly because of overwork. Chronic stress causes fatal occupational problems, especially heart and cerebrovascular diseases

How can you work hard without burning out?

Learn to recognise when you’re over-stressed: More overtime, fear of layoffs and high performance expectations all put a lot of pressure on employees. If you’re continuously withdrawn, irritable, fatigued and unable to concentrate, you’re probably feeling the effects of stress. It may also manifest itself in stomach problems, headaches and nausea.

Take care of yourself: Once you’ve identified the problem, you’re that much closer to finding the solution. A lot of people don’t even realize how stressed they are until it’s too late. Here are some tips to make sure you’re never under too much pressure.

1. Regular exercise is a fantastic way to combat stress. Take a little time off from work to spend an hour at the gym.

2. Healthy eating will keep your body balanced and ease the effects of stress. Low blood sugar will make you irritable, while over-eating induces lethargy. One good way to eat in moderation is to have small, frequent meals.

3. Avoid nicotine and alcohol. Yes, alcohol temporarily relieves stress, while nicotine acts as a stimulant. But using either one to ease work pressure may just end in substance abuse and addiction, doing more harm than good.

4. At work, prioritize. Create a balanced schedule, and make sure to schedule regular breaks. Do not commit to a task you may not be able to finish. Where possible, delegate, and if a project seems too overwhelming, break it into smaller steps. Try and leave earlier in the morning, so that your stress levels don’t rise because you’re late for work.

5. Maintain a clean environment, whether at home or at work. A tidy office will make you feel that much better, and a clean home will help you relax.

6. Be social. Make sure you have a support group of people who understand your problems and can sympathize. Meet your colleagues after work once in a while. This will also lead to a more friendly work environment.

Dealing with stress doesn’t mean making major changes in your life. You don’t have to change your career, or move your house. What you can do is take control of the things that you can control, namely yourself, your environment, and your relationship with people around you.

Photo Credit: giuseppesavo via Compfight cc

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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