Prevent Overworking and Breakdown in 5 Simple Steps

prevent overworking

Dedication, hard work, and technology have made up a potent recipe for burnout in today’s work life. Competition and career-building are motivating employees and entrepreneurs to put in extra hours their bodies can barely handle.

While some projects require more than the usual workload, commitment shouldn’t come at the cost of one’s health. After all, you don’t want health problems to prevent you from pursuing a successful career.

You don’t have to endure constant exhaustion to keep your business afloat or maintain a better-than-average appraisal rating. Also, you can earn a lot and crown your career without having to work 100 hours a week!

In this article, we’ll cover signs that show you’re overworking and different ways to prevent burnout.

The Grim Consequences of Overworking

Corporate competition has seen employers incentivize overwork. As a result, employees have to put in more hours to meet established milestones and produce more.

Low pay is another reason for excessive work. Sometimes, the appeal of overtime is too tempting to pass up, especially for those burdened by financial responsibilities.

But overwork hurts everyone. And here is how.

Herbert Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in 1974. He explained it as the mental or physical collapse triggered by stress or overwork. The World Health Organization tagged burnout as one of the leading causes of workplace mental health issues.

At some point, working long hours becomes counterproductive. For workers, it causes all sorts of personal and health-related problems. For companies, it hurts their bottom line. Insurance premiums shoot up since workers are often burnt out and require medical care. Also, overworked employees end up being inefficient.

Working too much can also be fatal. The Japanese have a word for death by overwork – Karoshi. The first case was recorded in 1969 when a 29-year-old male employee of a newspaper company died of a stroke.

Today, thousands of people still die each year due to demanding hours. According to a WHO report, more than 745,000 people died as a result of overwork in 2016. In addition, it showed that people who work more than 55 hours a week are 35% more likely to suffer a stroke. They are also 17% more prone to heart disease.

Why Do People Overwork?

If you ask employees, most of them will admit their bosses demand long hours. But, while they’re not wrong, it’s not the whole story.

Truthfully, employers want their workers to put in extra hours and stand by to respond to emails and calls even outside work. They also want a chunk of employees’ weekends and vacations without complaint.

However, workers are sometimes to blame. People tend to log extra hours thanks to a blend of different psychological drivers like greed, ambition, a sense of duty, and the desire to excel. 

Other things we need to stress are corporate culture, peer pressure, and technology. For example, an employee’s company could sell the idea of doing more as part of its culture. In this case, no worker would want to be the odd one out. Technology also makes it simple to pick up where you left off no matter where you are. This easily blurs the line that separates work and personal life.

Signs That Show You’re Overworking and How to Deal With the Issue

prevent overworking and breakdown

Let’s face it, demanding hours can kill you. The worst part is, you could be killing yourself without knowing it. You might think that your body handles the pressure just fine, but it could be late when mental and physical exhaustion kicks in.

If you experience the symptoms below, it’s time to take a breather and re-evaluate your work life.

You Find It Difficult to Switch Off Your Work Mode

Finding it difficult to focus on other aspects of your life is one of the main signs you’re overworked. You’re always alert and ready to deal with work-related issues at any time.

This situation could worsen when you hold a critical role in a project – even more so when your boss requires you to be available outside working hours. At this point, resting means you’re taking your eyes off the ball, which could lead to problems. So, you don’t want to take that risk.

Technology also doesn’t help. Even outside the office, you are one click away from every document you need to be on the grind again. This way, there’s never any moment of true relaxation as your mind’s always expecting something from work.


Draw a hard line between your on- and off-hours. You don’t have to feel guilty about ignoring work when you’re home. Your sense of dedication can resume in the morning. Do your best during work hours and make sure you only make exceptions when it can’t be helped.

Dissociating your job from your personal life can be more challenging when you work from home. However, you still have to do the hard work of separating both lives. Keeping a dedicated office helps. You can lock it up once the day is over. Work-related files and accounts should be left on the computer and digital devices in the office.

If you’re an employer and you require around-the-clock assistance for clients, rotate your workers in shifts. It would help if you also delegated some of your duties to make sure you’re also resting.

Declining Health

Increasing your regular coffee intake won’t hide the fact that you’ll be feeling less and less yourself. The extra hours will catch up with you at some point, no matter how much your system tries to adapt. Your body needs rest to recharge and repair worn-out cells. Unfortunately, no number of supplements in the world can make up for a good night’s sleep.

You’ll experience one or all of the following symptoms when you’re overworked:

●       Stress

You’ll always feel tense and on edge. Also, taking painkillers won’t get rid of the body aches.

●       Poor eating habits

Overworking tends to take away your interest in watching what you eat. You won’t have time to assess your calorie intake. This could mean skipping meals or overeating at once due to time restraints.

●       Weight loss/gain

Since you’re not eating healthy or at all, you could lose or gain weight fast.

●       Insomnia

Once your body gets used to long hours, sleep becomes difficult. This is because your brain might already be processing the jobs you have lined up for the next day.

●       Difficulty concentrating and brain fog

When the mental toll of overworking starts to kick in, you’ll start to forget small details like dates and names. Things tend to get foggy when your brain has to handle multiple tasks at once for long periods.

●       Exhaustion

Another sign that shows you should worry about your health is constant exhaustion. This isn’t the fatigue that comes with the day’s job and disappears in the morning. Instead, you’ll always feel weak, even during days you’re not working.

Other physical and psychological symptoms of overworking include the following:

●       Heart palpitations

●       Headaches

●       Constipation, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal upsets

●       Depression

●       Irritability

●   Anxiety

You could also be taking multiple medications to cope with the stress. This could lead to a bad case of substance abuse.

Dealing with Declining Health

Your health is important, and no one can stress that enough. So don’t overlook these issues. When you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to take a step back. If possible, take an extended break until you feel a hundred percent yourself again. If you must remain involved, make sure you get maximum rest while you’re at it.

Recondition your body to get used to 7 to 8 hours of daily sleep. Set a timer or reminder if necessary. This way, you can drop everything and head home when your workaholic side takes over.

Talk to a doctor and get checked out. Then, follow your health expert’s recommendation to the letter. You can also take your physician’s report to your employer to get some time off.

You Always Feel Like There’s More to Do

The feeling that there’s something more you have to do is a workaholic’s mentality. There are just not enough hours in a day. You’ll always feel guilty whenever you fail to meet a target you set for yourself.

Overworking also puts you behind. That’s because the fatigue and mental stress that come with it impact your work. As a result, you begin to do things wrong. For example, you could spend two hours executing a task that should take 20 minutes. So working 80 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re doing your best.

Overcoming the Need to Do More

It’s okay to do the best you can during work hours. However, you should find your pause button. Even if you can’t complete a task, push it over to tomorrow. To make sure you complete projects on time, declutter your schedule during work hours to focus on important tasks.

Your Social Life Begins to Take a Hit

Every hour you spend working is one hour less with your friends and family. It’s that simple. You can’t be in two places at once. You’re either working or spending time with people in your life.

When your friends and family start complaining, you should listen. It’s one of the strongest signs that you’re putting in more hours than you should. Our families love us, and they can condone intermittent long hours. However, it begins to hurt when it seems like work is replacing them.

You should notice when you start missing so many soccer games and recitals. You pull further and further away from your loved ones with each failed promise to show up. 

So, make the conscious decision to drop work and head home no matter what. Make the exceptions rare, as they should be. Continuing work at home should also be out of the question. While you want to show up, you also want to be present.

If you’re a remote worker, you should draw a boundary between work and personal hours. Your family should respect your work schedule, and you should honor your time with them.

You’re Losing Interest

The passion that once made your job fun will begin to wane when the stress of overworking takes over. You’ll find yourself struggling to take things over the line and questioning why you do what you do. You start to lose your sense of purpose, and that could unlock a negativity spiral.

This situation requires time and space away from work. You have to rediscover your drive to do what you love. To regain what demanding hours have taken away, you have to take some time off. This way, you can reassess the whole situation and find the spark again.

Once you’ve missed work enough and have rekindled your passion, don’t just jump right in. Make a plan to curb the long hours.

How to Stop Overworking for Good

You need a certain level of dedication to stop overworking. The good thing is that you can do it and maintain an optimal work-life balance. Whether your priority is to be at the top in your field or make good money, only a healthy mind and body can get you there.

Below, you’ll find different actions you should take to avoid burnout.

1.    Look Back

Start by understanding how you got here. Then, ask yourself what turned you into a workaholic. There must have been a turning point when you gradually made the shift to working late hours and skipping meals.

Did you start overworking because you decided to take your career to the next level? Did your employer begin to demand more? Or did your company’s culture change?

You might have decided to extend your work hours to increase your performance. In that case, you might want to step back and plan better. Exerting too much pressure on yourself will end up doing the opposite.

Next, your company’s culture might be rewarding extra hours. You can try your best to change that. If not, it’s time to ask yourself if you’re in the right place.

If your boss is the reason you have to work beyond your capacity, it’s time to formulate a plan to talk to them.

2.    Tell Your Boss You’re Overworked

Your boss might be dangling a promotion in your face to encourage you to work more. You have to talk to them. Let them know you’re willing to do what it takes but not at the expense of your health and relationship with your loved ones.

While many employers want to get the most out of their employees, they never want to sacrifice productivity. Your manager could be giving you the extra work because they believe you can handle it. You can let them know the job is beginning to weigh you down and affecting your performance.

However, be careful with your approach. You don’t want to sound like a slacker.

●       Schedule a sit-down with your manager and let them know it’s important.

●       Arrange your to-do list and document the timeline for each task. This way, you’ll show them how the piled-up jobs are not realistic for one person to handle.

●   Arrange the jobs in order of priority and suggest to them those you can execute. You should express enthusiasm and present a solution.

Most bosses add to your to-do list without knowing that you’re at capacity. They wouldn’t want the jobs stalled. So, you could be doing them a favor in the end by letting them know the task is better off with someone else.

3.    Make a Plan

Now to the good part. You have to develop a plan to reduce your workload and stick to it. The important thing about this step is discipline. Since you now have the resolve to maintain a better work-life balance, make sure nothing distracts you.

Start by creating a strict schedule. You can make weekly lists, which can be updated daily. Then, you can replace less important jobs with those that are top-priority.

If you’re a team leader, understand that you can’t do everything yourself. So make sure you learn to delegate and choose the right people for the job.

Keep the schedule within the confines of your work hours. Tell yourself it’s okay to stop and continue tomorrow.

4.    Exercise

Exercise improves brain function and productivity. A study carried out by Leeds Metropolitan University found that workers performed better after hitting their company gym. This is because the brain produces certain feel-good hormones when you work out, giving you the right boost for the day.

So, integrate a good exercise regimen into your daily schedule if you don’t have one.

5.    Carve Out Personal Hours

Self-care is important. As we mentioned earlier, overworking makes you neglect personal hygiene and other important things. So, take your time to go for regular check-ups.

Try your best to watch what you eat and how you eat. If you’re not good at managing your meals, talk to a nutritionist.

Also, carve out hours to take a nap, especially during periods when you have to work more. You can set a daily reminder each day, telling you to set work aside and take a breather. It could be 15 to 20 minutes. Just turn off and do something other than work.

Parting Words

The downsides of overworking far outweigh the perceived benefits. While it’s okay to put in extra hours occasionally, knowing when to draw the line is critical. So, try your best to enjoy the job without sacrificing other important things.

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