We’re all susceptible to work stress. Even if you’ve got your dream gig, there will no doubt be times that you’re stressing out about work. It happens to the best of us. But there’s a difference between the occasional stressful project and an all-consuming position or organization. If you feel like you spend most of your life in the non-stop stress zone, it might be time to reassess what you’re doing day to day or where you’re doing it. Here are some things to look out for:
1. You never have time to breathe.
If you never have time to grab coffee, eat lunch or even visit the restroom during the work day, chances are you’re under too much stress. If every day is so action packed that you don’t feel like it’s even possible to take care of your basic human needs, either you’re a) not thinking clearly and probably overworked, or b) not in the right job. Whether we choose to address it or not, it’s a fact that we’re better employees, friends and humans in general when we’re taking care of ourselves. Drinking water, eating right and taking breaks are all crucial in order for us to perform at our best and not get completely caught up in tense workplace situations. The next time you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have time to visit the ladies room before my next meeting” take a long hard look at yourself. Something’s gotta give.
2. It’s all you think about.
When you’re out to dinner with friends, at yoga class or walking the dog, thoughts of work are ever present. If your whole family can name everyone in your office and what their annoying quirks are, that's probably a sign that you’re bringing it into your life outside of work a little too much. It might be time for a breather. There’s nothing wrong with caring about the work you do or wanting to do it well. But you’re more than that. And if you spend all of your friend or family time talking work, I wouldn’t be shocked if you found yourself with a little less friend and family time in general. No one wants to hear about your work non-stop — even those that love you! Start slow. Work on your listening skills. Perhaps hearing some of what others are experiencing might even put your challenges in perspective!
3. You are constantly cranky.
Or sick. Or both. Our bodies have a way of telling us we’re too stressed if we’re moving too fast to notice it ourselves. If you find you’re really irritable, especially tired or always feeling lousy, this is something to pay close attention to. It’s not a shock that so many of us end up sick after a big project. We used up all of our energy getting through it, and our bodies have had enough. When we attempt to live in that mode, our bodies are not having it. They will pull out all the stops to make us realize we need time off, a mindset shift or a career change. Pay attention to how you’re feeling physically as well as emotionally. And get yourself to a doctor or on the right track with self-care pronto!
4. You get nothing done.
No matter how hard you try, it seems like you’re never able to accomplish anything. Unending to-do lists, non-stop requests and constant interruptions prevent you from coming close to achieving what you need to on the day-to-day. That doesn’t feel good to anyone. We all want that little hit of dopamine that comes with crossing something off of your list! But when we’re overwhelmed and swimming in tasks, if often feels impossible to focus, and hinders your ability to make progress. Not to mention to be proud of the little progress that perhaps you are able to make. We all think we’re great multitaskers. We’re not. Let’s admit it already and move on. Get intentional about your schedule and notice what can happen when you really take time to focus.
5. The scaries have moved beyond Sunday.
Nothing breaks my heart more than hearing from someone who says their feelings of anxiety about their next work week start as early as Friday. Existing in a perpetual state of dread or panic about what the next work day will bring is no way to live. We’re only on this planet for a short period of time. Over the course of our careers, we work a lot. And this mental state takes its toll in so many ways all of which we’re not yet even aware of. If this sounds like you, get the help you deserve. Talk to a therapist, take time off and do whatever you need to get yourself back to normal. You deserve to enjoy your life!
When we’re moving at lightning speeds, it’s difficult to notice not only what’s going on around us, but within us. If any of the above resonate with you, take a step back. Reassess what matters most, and make adjustments in both big and small ways that will enhance your experience day to day. It could be as simple as taking some time off or adjusting your schedule to starting a job search. Change is scary. But so is spending your life in a stressed out haze unable to see what’s what. Do the work to make change for yourself! You deserve it.
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.