How To Stop Your Job from Killing You

It’s not unusual to hate your job, your boss, your colleagues, your commute – even if it’s just the odd moment of despair, we all go through times where we feel like flipping our desk and walking out. The important thing to remember is that you work to live, it’s a means to an end, it’s not the be all and end all – once that dynamic is flipped on its head, and you live to work, it’s time to re-evaluate things, else your work-life could be the death of you.

Your job could be killing you

If you’re all work and no play, it’s only a matter of time before your body suffers some sort of breakdown, either mentally or physically. It could even end up killing you. Here are three relatively recent instances that highlight just how dangerous overworking can be:

  • A 21-year-old London intern died after working 72 hours in a row at Bank of America.
  • A 31-year-old Tokyo woman died of heart failure after working 159 hours and taking just two days off in the month leading up to her death.
  • A 21-year-old in the US took his own life after his dream job at Goldman Sachs became too intense and  ‘ended up eating him alive’, according to his father.

All young workers, all trying to impress and do their best in an ‘always-on’ culture that demands more and more of its employees. A culture that has been perfectly defined by this crass memo that greeted interns at Barclays in New York:

“Welcome to the jungle.” The message continued: “I recommend bringing a pillow to the office. It makes sleeping under your desk a lot more comfortable … The internship really is a nine-week commitment at the desk … An intern asked our staffer for a weekend off for a family reunion – he was told he could go. He was also asked to hand in his BlackBerry and pack up his desk.”

If you feel your job is getting too much, your employer is placing too heavy a burden on you, or you’re placing too much pressure on yourself, it’s time to take a step back and reassess things. Here are seven steps to take to help prevent your job from dragging you under.

How to help cut work-related stress

Working too much can quickly take its toll on your health, with depression, diabetes and heart disease are all real risks for half of us who work more than 40 hours a week, and four in ten of those of us who put in more than 50 hours a week. A terrifying statistic when you consider that’s only an hour or so extra each day on top of a 39-hour working week.

So, regardless of whether or not you think you might be at risk, try to take the following steps to stop your job from killing you:

  • Take each day as it comes – we can all get bogged down by forecasts, plans and schedules, and it can all quickly become too much. If you’re feeling bogged down, try to take a step back and focus on getting through today, and worry about tomorrow when it finally arrives. And never dwell on what’s in the past, there’s no way you change that, so always try to work for today.
  • Find time to switch off completely – remote working has never been more popular, and while this generally helps maintain a healthy work/life balance, the scales can easily be tipped if you never take time to switch off. So switch off your work phone and laptop once your day is done, and take a complete break from screens and gadgets to allow yourself time to fully switch off. For more on this, check out How to deal with tech stress.
  • Get up and about – sitting at a desk all day can really take its toll on your body, from eye strain to problems arising from bad posture. So, always take some time to get up from your desk to walk about and stretch. And, if possible, get into a proper exercise routine, either before or after work, or during your lunch break – adding yoga, walking, cardio or strength training in your routine, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress.
  • Avoid conflict – conflict can be rife within the workplace, especially if there are people in there who love nothing more than causig an argument – and there are people like that in every profession and every walk of life! So, the simple advice is to avoid them. Easier said than done, perhaps, but if someone brings their brand of abrasive behaviour to your door, try not to rise to it, and simply walk away. If they persist, report them to their boss.
  • Get the right amount of sleep – if you’re stressed, your sleeping patterns can go one of two ways – you can find you’re up all night worrying, or you sleep too much. Both are bad for you and bad for business as you’ll not be working to your best. So try to switch off completely before bed, by reading a book or listening to some relaxing music, and definitely stay away from your screens.
  • Set priorities and manage expectations – it can sometimes seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day, especially if you’ve got stakeholders chasing you for work they need to do their own job. So always make sure you set you priorities to do the most important or impactful jobs first, and manage people’s expectations – don’t set yourself short deadlines because it’s what people want to hear, as this will lead to disappointment and conflict. Set realistic targets, and don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Listen to your body – if you’re feeling stressed or run down, your body will let you know about it, so don’t ignore the warning signs! Some of the things that you should pay attention to include: feeling anxious, irritable, depressed, loss of interest in work, sleeping problems, fatigue, trouble concentrating, tension, headaches, stomach problems, social withdrawal, and even over consumption of alcohol or drugs. If these problems begin, you could be doing some serious damage to your health and wellbeing.

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