If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you're not alone.
Research from the "2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being — Well and Beyond" survey suggests that workplace stress is on the rise across all corners of the globe, and 13 percent of women report that their stress levels are “unmanageable."
But, if you're like me, a lot of your stress might be self-manifested. I often find myself worrying about that that's outside of my control, grappling with doubts about my future and regrets about my past, rather than staying focused on my present. It's only when I am grounded that I can ask myself the following questions to help me determine whether or not my workload is actually what's stressing me out or if I, myself, am the culprit.
Ask yourself these five questions in order to tell if your workload is unrealistic or if you are the problem.
1. "What have I achieved thus far?"
I spend so much of my time concerned about what I haven't yet accomplished, instead of reminding myself of what I've achieved thus far — including all of the experiences and lessons I've learned in failures along the way. That means that, instead of celebrating my career successes, it's not uncommon that I find myself dwelling on my longterm goals that still feel painfully elusive.
If you do this to yourself, too, you may be creating unnecessary stress in your life. It might not be that your workload is unrealistic but, rather, that your expectations for yourself in your work are unrealistic. So, if you can look back and answer this question with ease, chances are that you're doing just fine — and you need to start paying more mind your hard work and ensuing gains.
2. "How much time do I have for myself (and is it enough)?"
Are you really working all around the clock, or does it just sometimes feel like that? Do you still have time for the things you love outside of work — like going to the gym, sharing meals with family, going out with friends?
If you don't, it may be time to re-evaluate your work-life balance. If you do, however, you might just need to work on shifting your focus to being in the present moment when you are doing those things you love outside of work — rather than worrying about work while you're elsewhere.
3. "What can I do to improve my physical health?"
Stress can take a physical toll on the body. When you're feeling burnt out at work, it can lead to a whole host of health complications, from weight gain or loss and skin breakouts to heart palpitations, hives, aches and pains, infections and more.
If you're really stressed out, it's likely that you'll experience some physical symptoms. But if you ask yourself what you can do to improve your physical health, and you do it successfully, there's a chance that you just neglected self-care all this time. If, however, you're taking all the right steps — getting adequate sleep, eating well and working out, for example — and you're still having physical symptoms of stress, it might mean that you're burnt out beyond your control. That could come from external factors, such as your work.
4. "What can I do to improve my mental health?"
Like your physical health, stress can take a toll on your mental health, too. You might experience changes in your mood, appetite, libido, interests in social activities, etc.
If you ask yourself what you can do to improve your mental health, and do so successfully, however, you might have been letting yourself go to some extent. If, on the other hand, your mental health does not improve, it might mean that you're, again, burnt out beyond your control — perhaps due to external factors like your workload.
5. "Am I happy in this job?"
So many of us stay in jobs that do not make us happy because we're comfortable. Unhappiness, of course, can make doing a job feel a lot harder.
Happiness, and its absence, however, is in your control. You can make changes — like asking for a raise, switching departments or quitting altogether to find a new job — in order to achieve happiness. If you know that your job is sucking the life out of you, and you don't do anything for yourself to change what you can, then you're the reason you're stressed out, not your work.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.