The onset of work related stress – is often a gradual process, it creeps up on us over time.  We are generally resilient, and we manage to do more and more but, eventually we all run out of capacity and we find ourselves with too much to do.  Very interestingly, when faced with this dilemma few of us place the blame with our employer; we tend blame ourselves and frequently develop feelings of inadequacy.  Think about that for a moment and consider how irrational it is?  You feel bad because you are being asked to do too much.

The path to being overwhelmed at work is not only a slow and gradual one but, it is facilitated by your good intentions… you agree to do more as a favour, you willingly agree to help but, too often your good intentions leave you burdened, covering for an absent colleague, or doing additional work, staying late, skipping lunch etc and can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

We are all familiar with accounts (sometimes first-hand) of overzealous bosses who simply demand too much and who may bully or intimidate… but, this is not always the case, very often pleasant and supportive bosses, themselves under pressure hand out more and more work and sometimes it can be even more difficult to say no to a pleasant and supportive boss.  Sometimes when a colleague is absent or there’s a particular problem, we all need to ‘step up’ and do more but this shouldn’t be allowed to become a permanent feature. Temporary situations should always be temporary.

First signs….

The tell-tale signs that you are doing too much and maybe starting to suffer work related stress can be easily identified.  Do you have a lunch break – i.e., leave your desk and have time to relax?  Do you generally, arrive for work and leave work in line with your contractual obligations?  We all stay late sometimes to catch up – but are you staying late regularly?  Try recording the hours you work for a week… you might be surprised.

Do you find yourself getting tired, are you doing less outside of work, not going to the gym as often, skipping social events, not catching up with friends as often? Are you irritable with those around you, short tempered etc.  How are you sleeping, is your mind too busy to sleep?  These are all signs that you may be suffering with stress. Its harsh, but we should always remember that our family and friends do not deserve to be impacted by our negative experiences at work.

Less is more…

How do you redress the balance and get back to an appropriate work life balance? It is never easy to reverse a trend and to stop something. However, until you do you will be the one who lives with the consequences.  In the workplace you need to be assertive but equally professional and diplomatic. Be clear what your hours of work are, understand your job description and the things you are responsible for. Simply declining to do things is not going to go down well but being clear about what is and what isn’t your responsibility; this will help you to frame what things you need to do and what things you don’t. Remember the hours you are contracted to work and work hard during those hours, but once it gets to the end of your hours you should feel no guilt about putting your coat on and heading home.

Watch for others in the workplace – we all know someone who has a good work life balance, who generally leaves work on time and whom no one thinks any the worse of…. Observe them and copy their behaviours.

Remember you do not have to make yourself miserable to be successful.


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