Judd-Leonard Okafor, adapted from WebMD
There are things you simply have to get done, and deadlines are fast approaching. They simply have to be done, and you are stressed. But burnout is real, and it happens when stress piles up to a level you can’t deal with anymore. Long hours of work and a packed calendar can cause it.
But are you helping yourself? Research suggests a big no.
When you constantly work overtime, your adrenal glands pay the price. They flood your body with cortisol and epinephrine, the “fight or flight” hormones that gear you in times of danger. Constant stress keeps them flowing, so you stay on red alert even you are not in physical danger.
When stress hormones hang out for a long time in your body, they can damage your blood vessels. That raises your chances for heart attacks and strokes because they increase buildup of plaques that clog your arteries. That increases your likelihood of having high blood pressure. Infact, stress doesn’t sharpen your senses, it dulls them over time. And it doesn’t help you lose weight. In fact, high levels of cortisol makes your body hang on to fat, causing extra kilos to pile up.
At this point, when you simply can’t let go of your work, you become the classic case of a workaholic—working long hours because you are driven by an uncontrollable urge.
There’s a difference between being drawn to your work and being controlled by it. Workaholism can be like an addiction.
Workaholics have a hard time keeping a good quality of life because of obsession with work. Not that it satisfies you: the extra hours you put in don’t necessarily bring productivity.
And you are more likely to fall into this trap if you are in a manger position overseeing other employees, working for yourself or being a young adult.
Unhealthy addiction to work has a strong link with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. So that’s your mental health on the table. You may use work to avoid depression, or work more because those conditions just won’t let you stop.
Sticking to your chair all day doesn’t leave room for exercise. You are raising your chance of some kind of health problem, whether it’s heartrelated, cancer-related, or something else entirely.
And you are also more likely to get sick when burning your candle at both ends wears you down, because that weakens your immune system too— leaving you less protected from germs.
Being swamped and stressed all the time can do a number on your digestive system. It makes a difference in how quickly of slowly things move through your system—causing either diarrhoea or constipation. Stress can also keep your body from taking in the nutrients you need from the food you eat.
Continuous stress messes with your reproductive system. In men, it can curb sperm production and lower testosterone levels. Women can have irregular cycles and less sexual desire when their bodies are swamped with stress.
Oh, and those headaches you get from a hectic schedule are caused by tense muscles. You might grind your teeth, have sore shoulders, or deal with a stiff neck. You’re likely to get headaches from all this muscle tightness. It may even trigger migraines.
You might overworking yourself helps you sleep. No. Even though your work pace may make you feel sleepy when you should be awake, you’re more likely to have problems falling asleep or getting good-quality sleep once you do.
Taking breaks and vacations regularly improve your work performance, mood, and health.
Short stints during your workday or days and weeks away from the office, can boost your well-being. The benefits are especially high if you spend that time doing physical activity, learning something new, or practicing relaxation so your body can fully recover from the stress at work.