Six ways to tackle the overwork culture

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Everyone needs to work to sustain a livelihood. While some people are absolutely passionate about what they do for a living, others dread their jobs and begrudgingly go to work to bring home a much-needed salary. Whichever category you fall into, there will surely be moments on the job when you push yourself well beyond your limits. You may get to a point at which you are mentally fatigued, frustrated, and disillusioned by your work situation. Even worse, you may be so overworked that you notice the manifestation of physical symptoms.

It’s quite worrisome when you’ve become so physically and mentally drained that you can no longer even function safely or efficiently in the workplace. The worst scenario though, is overworking that ultimately contributes to one’s demise. The Japanese have a name for this, and it’s called “karoshi” (death by overwork). There is also what they call “karojisatsu,” (overwork contributing to suicide). There have been cases in Japan in which the prevailing overwork culture has precipitated fatal cardiac events or even clinical depression resulting in suicide in some workers.

Though the overwork culture is nothing new to the Japanese, it has seemed to also permeate throughout the African continent. The work hustle for many Nigerians in the workforce is no laughing matter. Clocking in excess amounts of overtime has become the status quo. Not only will the average Lagosian work well over a ten-hour day, they must also deal with all the stressors of their immediate work environment and endure the frustration of long commutes to work and unimaginable traffic. No one’s job is ever an easy breezy walk in the park, and so many are left feeling overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated, and perpetually stressed out.

Nonetheless, work-related stress and burnout is a serious reality for so many and it has actually been implicated in activating certain physiological responses that may potentially increase one’s susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other serious medical conditions. You never want to reach such a point in which your stress levels are so high that it may be harmful to your health. If you are overworked, exposed to a toxic work environment, or feel that you are at the brink of burn out, then take heed.

First, recognize that not everyone responds to stress in the same manner. Falling prey to the overwork culture may result in deleterious effects on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of some people. There are some common signs that indicate you are at the cusp of burn out such as a change in sleep habits, increased irritability, emotional detachment, ongoing fatigue or lethargy, cognitive impairment, and even depression.

Moreover, the bigger issues become how to first achieve and maintain work-life balance, effectively reduce the stressors in your work environment, and avoid succumbing to the stress of the overwork culture.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and overworked:

Re-evaluate your daily schedule. How many hours a day at work are you actually being productive? Identify any distractions that may be decreasing your work productivity and causing you to stay at the office longer than necessary. You’d be surprised how these distractions are likely consuming a good portion of your day and leading you to be inefficient and contributing to your high stress level.

Pin point specific stressors at work.  Sometimes it’s not only the long work hours that are stress inducing, but also the nature of the office culture may be equally distressful. If you are a part of a cut-throat work environment, or perhaps are dealing with workplace bullying or harassment, these are certainly major stressors that can cause emotional anguish and must be addressed immediately.

Take short breaks. Taking a 5-10-minute break can help put your mind at ease when your stress levels at work begin to surge. Break time is a must and you should use those brief moments of time to do something for yourself to help you unwind, such as meditation or listening to relaxing music.

Don’t allow your work to follow you home. You’ve heard it before, but it is worth reiterating. Leave your work in the office and never allow it to follow you home. It may be hard for some depending on what line of work you are in, but it is not healthy for work to consume you 24/7.

Exercise.  When you are overworked and stressed out, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But, it is actually a major stress reliever. Find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily work routine. You can do some light stretches desk side or make efforts to take the stairs as often as possible. These little steps help you remain active and reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

Don’t keep your frustrations bottled in. Always speak to someone about what you are feeling, and discuss possible solutions and mechanisms to cope with work related stress.

Finding that work-life balance is never easy, but remember that there is no job in this world that is worth compromising your health over. If your job is affecting your health, then see a healthcare professional immediately. We should all strive to work hard in our given professions, but it should never be at the expense of our well-being.

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Overwork Culture


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