ByÂ 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.
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 If you’re continuously withdrawn, irritable, fatigued and unable to concentrate, you’re probably feeling the effects of stress.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.