Money Matters

How to Tell If Your Workload Is Trashing You (Beyond Physical Symptoms)


Sometimes, the signals you should step back and relax a bit stare you in the face–you look in the mirror and see you’ve gained weight, you can’t sleep, you keep getting sick and your nickname might as well be Grumpypants. But what if you don’t have those physical signs of burnout? Does that mean you just need to suck it up, that you’re fine?

While listening to your body is always good advice, there are other cues that indicate trouble, too. These often rear their ugly heads long before you start feeling physical wear and tear, so if you can catch them early, you might be able to thwart both health and productivity losses. These are the top indicators you need to step back.

1. You’ve gone Facebook silent.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms offer good opportunities to connect. But responding to messages, posting photos and putting up statuses still takes time–a typical individual now spends more than two hours (135 minutes) a day on social. When you have a lot on your plate, sacrificing that time in favor of the immediate family members and friends around you can look incredibly attractive.

Research also indicates that people often feel worse after looking at social media. There’s plenty of drama, and at the same time, it’s hard not to feel inferior after looking at everyone’s “perfect” lives. You might put social media on the back burner when you’re burning out because you don’t have the extra energy to handle those situations and emotions.

2. You have more apps than a monkey has bananas.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few handy programs on your laptop or smartphone to give your efficiency a boost. But too many apps–think many smartphone screens worth, all filled with folders full of programs–can be a sign that you’re relying on technology to take over where your brain just can’t hack it anymore alone. You should be using programs as a mild support, not as the foundation for staying oriented.

3. You’ve become stingy.

People who are stressed out often reward themselves in monetary ways, be it going out to eat, getting a massage or buying a nice outfit. But data from the 2017 U.S. Bank Possibility Index reveals that we’re working harder to buy happiness than before–we rank our satisfaction in the “play” category low at just 40 out of 100, even though our spending has gone up from $2,911 in 2016 to $3,120. Incomes also aren’t keeping pace with inflation. With more money going out of your wallet to pad your feelings and take care of yourself, you might find yourself subconsciously clenching your fists at the suggestion of charity donations or loaning your buddy the $20 they want.

4. You’re lonely.

When responsibilities are high, it’s not unusual to spend hours a day surrounded by people without ever talking about what you personally need or feel. Conversation centers around problem solving, not your interests or preferences. You might not feel depressed, per se, but the concept of revealing yourself, embracing and really connecting might leave you with a lump in your throat, simply because you miss doing it.

5. You hide out in your shower.

Sure, showers are the place to handle your personal hygiene. But they can also be lusciously comforting in their warmth, especially as the steady sound of water offers white noise to think by. For just a precious little bit of time, no one hounds you. You literally have nothing to hide and are only who you are. If you’re finding that you feel like a burdened imposter the moment you turn off the water, if you’re purposely extending the time under the showerhead just to be alone, it’s time to rethink. (By the way, hiding out in your closet with a Snickers or other treat of your choice counts in this vein, too.)

Now comes the brutal honesty

Just as  five minutes of meditation in the morning isn’t going to keep your blood pressure under control as the boss or a coworker gripes at you for hours, you can’t expect these symptoms to magically turn around just by cutting a few things from your budget, calling a friend (once) or switching to an all-in-one digital assistant platform. It might take an entire career change, hiring services (e.g., housecleaning), moving or even rethinking specific relationships to get yourself on track and restore balance. The good news is, friends, family members, counselors and other professionals all can help you identify where you’ll most benefit from change. And when it comes to bettering yourself, there’s no such thing as too late.

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