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9 signs you are stressed out and overworked

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You might not be having an emotional meltdown right now, but chances are your brain and body are already telling you to slow down at work.

Or perhaps you’re coping, but you’ve noticed your employees are walking with less of a skip in their step and the twinkle in their eye is gone – a clear indication that stress could be taking over.

Because it’s only February, it’s important you recognise these burnout signs now, to ensure the feelings of stress don’t last for any longer than they need to.

1. Your family and friends outside work constantly ask how you are coping

They can read the pain and stress all over your face and are concerned for your well-being, or they’re just as stressed as you and all you do when you’re together is talk about how much work you have to do.

Either way, you all could probably use a break.

2. Keep an eye on your heart rate

It sounds strange, but it’s actually a massive indicator of stress (and subsequent heart and health issues down the line.) Athletes do it, so why shouldn’t you?

Buy a heart monitor and track your resting heart rate – i.e. when you get up in the morning – for a period of time. Note when it’s elevated and think about why that might be. It’s usually because you’re not sleeping enough and giving your brain time to rest because you’re thinking about work.

3. Are you forgetting something?

Not remembering what you did yesterday isn’t necessarily a sign on early onset dementia. Sometimes, it’s just because your brain is way too tired to retrieve memories that aren’t as important.

As Anne Marie Albano, PhD, direction of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Relation Disorders says: “I tell [patients] about the shelf theory of memory: You can only put so much on the shelf at one time, and when you’re exhausted, the shelf isn’t supporting memories the way it should.”

Can’t remember what you ate, did, or who you saw yesterday? Get some rest!

4. You have dandruff and skin problems you haven’t had since you were a teenager

When you get stressed, your body releases more cortisol (aka the stress hormone) which can increase oil production in the skin. Hello, pimples. According to a 2001 study, stress actually has a negative effect on your skin’s barriers, meaning you lose more water and inhibit your skin’s ability to repair itself.

Hair loss, dandruff or a sensitive scalp is also a clear indication of stress (also often from not eating the rights foods when stressed) but these symptoms will usually go away relatively soon once you find time to properly relax.

5. You’re overwhelmed by the feeling of not wanting to go to work, even though you love what you do

You might think your employees are slowly becoming disengaged with their work for a multitude of reasons, but chances are your top-performing and usually-satisfied talent are just feeling a bit overworked.

Sit down with them and talk it out. Sometimes all they need is a few to day to recharge – the difference in the demeanour, productivity and overall look is astounding.

6. You can’t focus

You’re usually right on track with your work and reliable with deadlines, but at the moment you have 30 unanswered emails, six projects sitting on your desk, eight windows open on your computer, four instant messages popping up on your screen from colleagues, and… wait, what were you doing again?

7. Somehow, you have become immune to the effects of coffee

When you can drink a big cup of coffee in the evening and then still fall asleep relatively easily, you are basically immune to the stimulant effects. What’s probably happening is that you’re so tired that the neurotransmitters in your brain which aim to keep you calm are functioning in overdrive, overriding the caffeine’s affect.

Essentially, the caffeine is still making you buzz, but your brain isn’t reacting to it because all it wants is the sweet release of sleep.

8. You laugh when people say “call me when you’re free!”

“When I’m free? When’s that? What’s free time?”

9. You, or your staff, are calling in sick more often – either legitimately, or just to get a day off

It’s true that Singaporeans clock up some of the longest working hours in the world, but they also admit to lying to their boss about why they’re off work. Often, the lie is about leave that has ‘already been booked’, but 9% of staff also tell fibs about being sick just to get a day off to recharge.

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Rebecca Lewis
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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