Stress from overworking may be caused by different factors. One of them is the perception we have about how we use our time. This leads us to ask ourselves: Do we live to work or work to live?
For many people, work is an aspect of everyday life. Money is not the only reason people work. What we call “work” has to do with how we spend time, provide daily needs, and social connections.
Sometimes we can spend much more time with our co-workers than with our friends and family. Many other areas of our lives are centered around personal fulfillment, leisure, income, quality of life, concerns, and dreams, big or small.
Work to live: the new wave
We invest much more time in things that are directly or indirectly related to work than in any other area of our life.
When talking about the dichotomy between living to work or working to live, a mixture of theories or prophetic fantasies of inspired or enlightened people emerges. Everyone talks about the idea of being your own boss, distinguishing effort and sacrifice, entrepreneurship, or the long-awaited promised land where you can turn your passion into your job.
There are more serious aspects such as workplace health, burnout, balancing work and personal or family life, etc. To reduce stress from overworking and improve workplace health, you must adopt healthy practices in your daily life to handle a stressful working environment.
Balancing work and personal life
If you don’t balance time between work and other areas of life equally, it can create a lot of tension, leading to stress from overworking. If work is your entire world, it better be a nice, meaningful, and well-paid job.
Otherwise, we end up associating everything related to work with a lack of motivation and with something so demanding that it prevents us from evolving in different areas of our life. Demands from work can become a threat and the only possible way to escape it is by working more and more hours.
Have you heard of the crosswalk in Shibuya? It is located in Tokyo and it is said to be the most crowded crosswalk in the world. Walking through that point in Shibuya can challenge our tolerance to stress due to all the noise and visual stimuli.
How stress from overworking can affect you negatively
Those who live in Japan have learned to tolerate such urban challenges. The Japanese have a reputation of devoting a large amount of their time to their work and very few days off. They distribute workdays and vacations in a very different and unbalanced way compared to our standards and values.
Sometimes workplace health can get out of control given the way they work. They actually have a term, karoshi, to refer to situations in which someone dies from work overload. That is kind of disturbing, isn’t it?
Inspiration comes from the north
Some European countries, especially the Scandinavians, are known for being hard workers. They are very efficient in the work environment, yet they are very different from the Japanese. They consider their way of organization good for their workers’ health. What is good for employee health is also good for the health of the business.
In addition to giving importance to work, these countries also greatly value the ability to have a life outside the office.
To encourage workers not to live to work but to reserve time for other things, these countries usually have very strict rules that regulate working hours. Companies that are very committed to their workers health encourage them to dedicate enough time to other things and even penalize people when someone devotes too much time to work. Why? They think these people struggle with how to organize time efficiently.
According to different international reports, many decades ago these countries found a formula to make balancing personal life and work a reality for the vast majority, favoring mental health and success in business.
Anxiety and depression associated with work
Whether or not we implement the recommendations of modern labor gurus, it is proven that when we do not balance work time properly, it is easy to develop severe symptoms of anxiety and depression related to high levels of stress.
Instead of looking for memes or feeling lazy on Sunday thinking, “I’ve got to go to work tomorrow”, we must pay attention to certain red flags which in the long run will impact our physical and psychological health.
If you consider goals imposed by work as too demanding or only attainable at the price of sacrificing time, you end up worn out and discouraged. Those are the first symptoms of stress from overworking.
Among other things, people end up learning that the main source of validation is how much profit they can make for their company.
How can we prevent stress from overworking?
Did you know that depression and anxiety are considered epidemics in the Western world? Did you know that casualties due to anxiety and depression are the number one reason for work absenteeism in countries? Work and the quality of life (or severe lack of quality of life) are closely related.
1. Be assertive
Unless you are a firefighter or have an important public service job, it is likely that you can have time to finish things later if you put more effort into what’s happening in the present.
Perhaps your boss will invite you to an optional activity outside work, which many co-workers evaded by saying they had to pick up their child at daycare, take their parents to the hospital, or go to their second job. It seems that you do not have an excuse to miss that activity.
Do not fool yourself or feel guilty. You also have someone to take care of and that person is you. That person has an unavoidable commitment to the sofa, errands, appointments, or a little time at the beach during their time off. Remember that we all need a balance, not just those who have children or others who depend on them.
Set boundaries for yourself first, then others, and finally, the system. Do it in that order. When you put boundaries on other people, it’s because you’ve placed them on yourself first.
2. Learn to stop
We all know the satisfying feeling of crossing things off a list and going home thinking that we have done a lot, which is sometimes known as a sense of self-gratification and efficiency. Once again, you must learn to let go and decide that some things can wait. What if you dedicate a little time to leisure and friends instead of being obsessed with crossing things off your to-do list?
3. Don’t stress out if you don’t know how to unwind
If your job makes you happy or you simply have nothing better to do than working hard, there is nothing wrong with focusing on tasks. The best suggestion is to ask yourself the following question: Do I have nothing better to do because I leave no space for other activities or is my life only work? The subject deserves deep reflection.
Pay close attention to the last thought. Working hard is not bad as long as you choose to do so, enjoy it as much as possible, and make sure it doesn’t isolate you. It is good to cultivate different areas of life and above all to foster deep and satisfying relationships in environments other than work. Some co-workers become friends, but in most cases, they will only be there as long as the company exists. Don’t forget to pay attention to your life outside of work.
4. Get things done
If you concluded that you don’t want to live to work but work to live it is good that you put it into practice by applying it to things in your daily life.
Sometimes you just have to keep doing the same thing you have always done but with a different attitude. Other times you can make small changes to your schedule, food, or habits, distribute time differently outside and inside the office, plan activities better and take the step of finally dedicating some resources (time, money, physical or mental effort) to other activities.
The important thing to know is that if you want to have a life that is not based solely on work, you can make it happen.
Today is the first day you can live a little longer and work a little less without traumas, dramas, and major changes. If you do not know how to do this or you feel you have reached a high level of stress, do not worry. ifeel is here to help. Our team of psychologists works with these types of problems every day and can help you take the necessary steps so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Thanks to this partnership, HR managers can receive personalized, data-driven advice on what are the most effective measures to help employees deal with stress from overworking.
In addition, ifeel’s emotional well-being program for companies offers employees a mental health care service structured at different levels depending on individual needs. This way, employees can access various mental health care tools with ifeel’s app. On level two, they can receive emotional support through a chat with one of our platform’s licensed psychologists. If additional support is needed, they can access the third level of the program: online psychological therapy with a psychologist specialized in cases such as theirs.
Contact us today and request more information on our emotional well-being program for companies.