Society is now completely adapted to an internet-based world where millions upon millions of pieces of data are at your fingertips. This fast pace has taken over work environments everywhere. Both in classes and the office, expectations for students and employees have soared. The fear of failure and desire for financial stability means that people everywhere adhere to these arduous standards. While this paints today’s world as a dystopian fantasy where life is “all work and no play”, this picture is far from accurate. While labor expectations have increased, so has the movement to dissolve stigma around mental health. Emphasis on relaxation and self-care has swelled in response to the stress of postmodern society. Everyone can recognize the tell-tale signs of stress before a due date or presentation. But sometimes signs of stress can be harder to detect, especially for those with strong work ethics. This mindset leads down a dark road where working too much can do more harm than good. The risk of heart disease and stroke increases when an individual is consistently stressed. But physiologically, we are able to tell ourselves when to take it easy. Here are some signs that your body is telling you to slow down.
It’s no surprise that someone who is overly stressed is unpleasant to be around. But if you find that you are purposely taking yourself out of social situations, take a moment to consider your stress level. While you may disguise self-isolation as not being in the mood or blaming it on the social situation itself, it might actually be yourself burning out. Is it really that you don’t like that restaurant, or are you too socially exhausted to interact with the people going there?
A perpetual work schedule may lead you to believe that sleep is the solution to your stress. But, the opposite may be true if you are overworked. Instead of getting a good night’s sleep, you will toss and turn as a result of your brain’s constant overload. Acute stress leads to a fight-or-flight response in your body, and relaxation time becomes impossible. It will seem as though you are always “on,” which leads to a lack of shut-eye and overthinking.
Are you reaching for those high-cal comfort foods? There is no shame in the odd indulgent snack, but if you are inhaling those snacks faster than normal, it could be a sign to take a break from work. Stress can cut down your appetite, but lots of stress can lead to an increase in cortisol, which will cause your hunger to spike. If your eating habits feel out of control, it may be a sign to close your laptop and get some shut-eye.
Loss of Passion
Whether it’s going for a run or painting, we all have our passions and hobbies. A small break from the troubles of the workplace often comes in the form of a hobby. Maybe you are lucky and have a class that focuses on something you love or a job that is so fitting it rarely feels like work. But maybe you need that creative outlet. A red flag to look out for is when you spend more time on your phone or computer working rather than taking time for a hobby because you simply don’t have the energy. Losing motivation for something you adore is the beginning of a slippery slope.
Leap in Anxiety
It’s one thing to be overworked at work, but if you feel overworked after leaving that professional space, it’s time to take a breather. When you feel exhausted all the time, you often feel greater anxiety in your everyday life. Feeling on edge more than usual can progress as time goes on. As it gets worse, so does your quality of life, so check in with yourself often.
If reading these symptoms feels a little too much like looking in a mirror, take a break! Your mental health can’t wait. Putting our basic physical and mental needs ahead of what others expect from us is becoming increasingly normalized, so no need to feel guilty for self-kindness. It’s time to do what’s best for you, so take some time to breathe and relax!