6 Signs Work Is Taking Over Your Life
We've all felt burned out at some point or another in our professional lives, more so during the pandemic. The familiar feeling of total mental and physical fatigue resulting from working too hard can cause depression and exhaustion.
Burnout can happen to anyone, including entrepreneurs. Sure, they're more likely to learn and do exciting things daily, but they're also more susceptible to stress. A survey of startup founders found that 53% "never switch off," and 41% felt stressed "pretty much every day."
Unfortunately, amid the pandemic, these numbers have only risen. If you run a business of your own, you'll agree the lines between your personal and professional lives are blurred. As a full-time freelancer, I know how much blood and sweat goes into delivering quality work.
Until a few months ago, missing even a day's work could put my entire schedule in jeopardy — not to mention the guilt I would feel on taking some time off to take care of myself. But not anymore. I believe everything in moderation is fine, including breaks.
But when you are obsessively passionate about your business, you are more likely to burn out because of operating in high uncertainties, having limited safety nets, and being socially isolated compared to those with full-time jobs.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail to recognize the warning signs of stress and continue working despite its impact on their bodies and minds.
If you also spend long hours at work, often sacrificing sleep and family time, that's where you must draw the line and make significant changes to your routine. Here are six worrisome signs of stress — and tips to combat them:
You Skip Lunch Due to Your Tight Schedule
We've all been there — not having a proper meal because we were in between meetings or busy chasing deadlines.
Do you tell yourself that you'd make a healthy lunch at home or order in salads from a nearby deli but end up at your desk every lunch hour, munching on delicious but unhealthy junk food? I have been there, and it's not viable for the long run.
Worse, do you often miss having lunch with your spouse, especially when you both decided to but you couldn't make it? I have been there, too.
Lunch breaks are necessary to refresh the mind. After spending prolonged hours in front of the laptop, you deserve to take some time off to enjoy light banter with your spouse and nourish your body with a proper meal prepared at home — on the dining table.
To minimize distractions during this time, stay away from your phone and laptop. Better yet, select another spot in the house to eat your lunch, and tell your team you'd be out for the next 30 or 60 minutes. Make time for yourself (and your spouse).
You're Consistently Late for Family Time Because You're Bogged Down With Work
Do you try to schedule a million tasks and meet with as many people as you can throughout the day? If that's your daily routine, you only have short intervals to spare for each task and absolutely no breaks in between. That's being harsh on yourself.
In an environment where you're always trying to frantically answer emails, draft proposals, and review assignments done by the team, you can't afford to make any provisions for delays. Add urgent tasks and unnecessary meetings to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
Whether you have children or your parents live with you, you have to prioritize. Focus on the tasks that need your attention so that your family time doesn't become hampered.
As an entrepreneur, you have to take charge of your schedule and be strict with yourself when switching off. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. Your family wants you — and deserves you — too.
You're Distracted by Work While Watching TV
Imagine you're trying to watch the latest episode of Loki with your spouse but cannot fully enjoy or comprehend the episode because you're on your laptop, answering emails, or assigning tasks to your team for the next day.
An hour later, you realize that the emails you sent were riddled with grammatical errors and formatting mistakes, and you have to wait for an entire week to catch another episode of your favorite show. This is frustrating.
Plus, you spoiled your spouse's mood because they wanted to relax with you, and once again, you couldn't unplug from work at the end of the day. How about scheduling an hour of watching TV or a movie with your family every other day on your to-do list?
Whenever my husband and I plan to catch something together, we ensure it's on our (mental or physical) to-do lists. We also confirm it multiple times with each other, so we don't forget it.
Work Makes You Miss Your Workout
Do you know why you often feel overwhelmed with work? It's because you don't give your brain time to process things. Instead of taking the energy you'd normally spend worrying about how much work you have, direct it toward improving your health — with exercise.
Go for a run, take a stroll down the neighborhood park, or hit the gym — do whatever you prefer to boost your energy levels, creativity, and concentration. Stick to a routine to ensure nothing work-related comes in the way during those hours.
You might not have control over the future of your business. But you do have control over your body. Therefore, set a fitness goal — maybe it's gaining some muscle, dropping a few pounds, or improving in a sport.
Reduce your stress and anxiety by allowing yourself to be free without the distraction of phones and emails. Missing your workout won't help you in the long run.
You Wish You Could Hold Two Phone Conversations at the Same Time
That saves time, right? You are speaking to one client or investor, and another one calls you in between. Do you not wish to answer both calls simultaneously? That scenario sounds stressful. If you think that this unrealistic way of working will help you save time and be more productive, you're wrong.
What you do need to do is plan your day properly and set a time for meetings. Be present when you speak to either your client or investor. Learn to focus on one thing at a time. You'll not only feel calmer during the meetings but also derive fruitful outcomes from them.
Your Family Complains You're Not Attentive
You know that when your spouse narrated an experience he had at work last night, you were working on your mental to-do list. Or, when you were tucking your children into bed, you were zoned out, and you told them you loved them in haste.
Look, you're a human being. There's only so much work you can do daily. Spending quality time with loved ones is a massive mood booster and stress reliever. Once you finish your workday, which you should do on time, close your laptop and be fully present.
Have a meal with your family, talk, and unwind with a glass of your favorite beverage. You must realize you did your best today, and you can get more done tomorrow. But for now, all you need to do is be with your family.
Take a Deep Breath and Actively Decide Not to Think About Work
As an entrepreneur, I'm always running at full speed. For a long time, I felt that by doing so, I was useful. I thought I didn’t have a single minute to waste. My work is hugely satisfying, and it is natural for me to stress over how the freelance business shapes up.
However, that only did more damage than good. Recently, I started taking just one minute out to pause and release my mind and focus on nothing — for only a minute. Result: I have more ideas flowing in. And a higher amount of clarity on decision-making. In other words, you'll become a better, less stressed entrepreneur when you take time out for yourself.