Not enough sleep, stress, trouble disconnecting, a case of the blues… Symptoms of overworking are easy to ignore at first.

But they shouldn’t come with the job. No salary or position can ever be high enough for you to have to cope with them.

Recognizing the common symptoms of overworking your body is crucial to start making a change.

Overwork Exhaustion Symptoms

Physical symptoms resulting from overwork can be so pronounced that they may interfere with day-to-day activities. Overwork causes stress, and stress triggers the release of stress hormones that can affect just about every system of your body.

Common symptoms of overworking can include:

  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Stomachache and other intestinal problems
  • Feeling tired or drained
  • High blood pressure
  • Racing heart
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Lack of energy

Did you know: Constant stress resulting from overwork may also take its toll on your immune system. It can make you more prone to infections.

Warning Signs You Are Overworked

You don’t have to wait for overwork exhaustion symptoms to undermine your health to realize that you’re working too much. If you are experiencing one or more of the following signs of being overworked, it’s time to make some changes in your life.

1. You’re Having Trouble Disconnecting

Thinking about work even when you’re not working is one of the major signs of overworking. Today, when work often follows us home on our phones and computers, disconnecting from work is more challenging than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to working from home hasn't made matters any easier.

But working more doesn’t necessarily help you get more done. As a 2014 Stanford study found, workers who put in 70 hours a week weren’t more productive than those who put in “only” 56 hours.

Using different devices for personal use and work is one way to disconnect more easily. If you’re working from home, you can keep your work in one room only and leave it after finishing the day’s tasks.

2. You Don’t Sleep Enough

Long hours may reduce the time you have available for sleep or for winding down before going to bed. If your work involves long hours in front of a screen, artificial light may delay sleep and upset your biological clock, the circadian rhythm.

man working on computer at night in darkened room

Not sleeping enough can make you feel daytime fatigue. It can lower your concentration and productivity. More than putting you in a bad mood, it can lead to chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Your eyes may also feel dry and itchy, and they may be red and tear easily. Losing sleep, together with spending a lot of time in front of a screen at work, can lead to dry eyes.

Good to know: The Sleep Foundation recommends that working adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. We dedicated an entire post to how to sleep better at night.

3. You Don’t Feel Productive Enough

Does your brain feel foggy? Are you having difficulties concentrating on tasks? If you’re overworked, productivity strategies like the Pomodoro technique won’t necessarily help.

Our bodies are not made to be productive all the time. Especially if they have to sit at a desk and stare at a screen for hours on end.

The brain is like a sponge, it can’t keep on handling information efficiently without rest. Mental breaks are crucial for increasing productivity, boosting creativity, and renewing attention.

4. You’re Stressed Out

When you’re stressed, you may experience a wide range of physical symptoms, from pains and aches and muscle tension to insomnia and digestive problems. Emotional symptoms include moodiness, being on edge, finding it hard to relax, and feeling frustrated.

Stress can feel different for different people. But in all cases, stress takes its toll on one’s physical and mental health.

It’s like carrying with you against your will a heavy weight you can’t shake off, and which is burdening all your bodily systems. Stress often is one of the first symptoms of overworking.

Tip: You can reduce workplace stress with this work checklist.

5. You’re Having Trouble with Your Relationships

Feeling distant and avoiding others is one of the major emotional symptoms of stress. Feeling overworked may affect not only your relationships with colleagues, but those with your partner, family, relatives, and friends.

You may not feel like socializing much after work. Even if you want to, you may not have the energy for it.

Despite trying not to, you may bring home some of the anger and frustration you feel at work and vent it on others. While you don’t want to hurt others, you have to be kind to yourself too.

Pent-up stress from work needs an outlet. Keeping a journal is one way to release some of it.

6. You’re Feeling Depressed

Losing your drive, no longer enjoying things you like, and feeling blue can all be symptoms of overworking. You may also catch yourself having negative thoughts or simply thinking too much.

woman sitting before a lighted window

When their underlying causes are not addressed, these symptoms may escalate to chronic depression. It’s important to pay attention to them and not downplay them. They may also encourage unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much, or binge eating.

Working for more than 11 hours a day increases your risk for depression, according to a British study. 

Another study of women supports the findings and highlights that working weekends also increases the risk.

7. You’re Having a Few Too Many Drinks

According to a 2015 study, working more than 40 hours a week can make you turn to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Because it slows down brain pathways and reflexes, alcohol may make you feel like you’re better coping with the other symptoms of overworking your body.

But drinking too much has many negative effects on health and may endanger your life by increasing your risk of accidents. Your eating habits may suffer, and you may experience unwanted weight gain or weight loss.

How to Cope with Overwork Exhaustion Symptoms

Often, not all factors leading to overwork symptoms will depend on you. Even so, there’s a lot you can do to relieve these symptoms and try to minimize them in the future.

  • Talk to your boss about the situation you find yourself in to see whether you can find a solution together.
  • Cut back on long hours. The body is not supposed to work and work without rest.
  • Avoid multitasking as much as possible. It doesn’t make you more productive and is bad for the brain.
  • Exercise regularly and practice mindfulness and meditation to better cope with stress.
  • Move more at the office by getting a standup desk and taking breaks every 15 minutes.
  • Use downtime to disconnect from work by reading, listening to music or an audiobook, or watching a film.
  • Schedule and prioritize fun, non-work activities on your task list.

In the end, no strategy will help you avoid overworking if you constantly put in long hours.

If that happens, maybe it’s time to reconsider your career goals, or even try a different career altogether. Your health and wellbeing are well worth the change.

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