All Work and No Play: Do You Work Too Much?
Photo Credit: shironosov /

Am I Overworked?

“Work to live, don’t live to work.” This saying used to be your motto. It’s a good rule to live by, but lately, it has been easier said than done.

You used to like your job; you would wake up in the morning excited and optimistic about the day ahead. You would arrive on time, efficiently perform your duties, and head home with a sense of accomplishment.

Your coworkers were happy, your boss was happy, and you were happy, especially on payday.

Somehow work seems to be consuming more time, more physical and emotional energy and is taking more effort to complete. The transition to this state has been so slow and subtle, but now it feels like you are deeply entrenched into the quagmire of work.

Symptoms of Overwork

Are you overworked? This question can be quite difficult to answer since many factors impact feelings of being overworked, and they overlap greatly with symptoms of stress and burnout.

Stress is a normal, expected function in daily life. In some cases, a bit of stress can help boost your productivity by improving your attention and performance.

Burnout is a different story as it marks a depletion of your resources and an emergence of many unwanted symptoms. Possible symptoms of being overworked include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Dreading the thought of going to or being at work
  • Being irritable in all areas of life
  • Poor sleep
  • Disturbance in eating habits marked by changes in quality or quantity of food eaten
  • Feeling increased sadness or worry
  • Utilizing negative coping skills more often
  • Increased conflict in your relationships

Rule Out Other Causes

Before you can definitively say you are overworked, you must investigate other causes. Symptoms of being overworked can be symptoms of several mental health and physical health conditions.

For example, being depressed can contribute to the same symptoms as being overworked. Additionally, many medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia can mirror the overworked symptoms.

The relationship between these conditions and being overworked is bidirectional. This means that depression can make overworked symptoms worse, just as overworking can make depression worse.

To better understand your situation, you should retrace your symptoms back to the onset. Which came first and how did the condition progress?

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Seeking specialized mental or physical health can assist in determining how your symptoms interact with each other and influence your life.

Best Practices for Progress

Like they say in the substance abuse field: admitting you have a problem is the first step. This gives you the motivation and the incentive to change your situation to change your symptoms.

The course will not be easy, though. You cannot quit your job just because you are overworked; doing so may lead to more unwanted stresses related to financial strain.

Your situation will demand an individualized action plan to begin moving towards your goal. Consider the following framework to end your overwork.

Begin With Balance

Essentially, being overworked is a sign of dysfunctional balance in your life. Your work life and your personal life are not coexisting in harmony, which leads to all of the unwanted symptoms you’re currently enduring.

At this early stage, you need to decide what a balanced lifestyle will look like. Have you found this balance previously or is balance a complete mystery to you?

If you had it, when did you lose it? Consult with others who seem to have a solid balance in their life to gain insight and suggestions.

Communicate Your Cause

Once your notion of balance has been solidified, begin telling others in your professional and personal life about your decision. Use caution, though, since others may stand to lose with your changing lifestyle.

People at work may have come to take advantage of your extreme work habits. People at home may be more comfortable with your absence or your ability to bring home a higher income.

Let people know what being overworked is currently doing to you and what it may do in the future if nothing changes. Burnout is on the horizon, and coming back from burnout is incredibly challenging.

Build Your Boundaries

Talking the talk is important, but setting and enacting real boundaries with people will be the only way to move away from being overworked. A lack of boundaries is a great way to stay overworked.

Saying “no” will be a major accomplishment, since accepting additional responsibilities likely led to your overworked symptoms. Breaking that momentum will be uncomfortable, so you must be consistent in your limit setting.

Can you stay late? Can you come in early? Can you take on these extra responsibilities? No! The risks are not worth the reward.

Add Your Attributes

New boundaries will aid your ability to cut out the negatives of work, but they will yield minimal results unless you can add positives to your home life.

Having free time could be a new experience for you. Do not fill it with time staring at the TV while lying on the couch. Go and be fulfilled.

Have new experiences that evaded you. Reconnect with loved ones and build new connections. Enjoy time alone while you discover leisure activities to recharge your batteries.

Stay or Go

There is a fair chance that doing the above steps leads to additional conflict at work and/ or home. If this becomes your situation, you have to consider the prospect of walking away from either or both.

Whether it is professional or personal, some relationships cannot work. Leaving is difficult, but staying can lead to dangerous effects on your physical and mental health.