Common signs of an unhealthy work/life balance
Whether you’re a graduate starting your first full-time job or the CEO of a company, your work/life balance matters.
It can be difficult to know what's a small bump in the road, or if there's a bigger problem contributing to your overall stress levels. While everyone reacts to pressure differently, there are some common signs of stress that may indicate a poor work/life balance:
If you’re lacking sleep because you're checking your emails late at night or waking up during the night worrying about your to-do list, there may be a problem. Perhaps you’re waking up tired, despite getting your full eight hours. A constant feeling of tiredness (no matter how many hours of sleep you get) is a sign that your brain needs a break.
Experiencing aches and pains
If you’re experiencing headaches more than usual or you’re suffering from long-lasting, persistent shoulder and neck pain, this could be stress-induced. Chronic headaches and muscle tension indicate a constant state of strain and this is a clear sign that your body needs some TLC.
Change in eating habits
Stress can often have a negative effect on our eating habits. Some people lose their appetite, often forgetting to eat meals or eating very little when they are so busy thinking about what they need to do at work. Others may do the opposite, and turn to food for comfort which can negatively impact both your physical health and your self-esteem.
You may not notice a change in your eating habits, but others might pick up on it. If you’re an onlooker and are worried about a friend, reach out and suggest you meet for lunch - they might well need a break and enjoy a friendly conversation.
Working out of hours
A big indication of poor work/life balance is if you’re thinking about work (or actually working) during your time off. If you’re due to finish work at 5pm, then it’s important you actually stop. This is your time to switch off and focus on the other aspects of your life.
Checking emails and answering calls out of working hours might happen occasionally, but if it's a regular occurrence this demonstrates a need to review your work/life balance. Similarly, if you’re worrying about work on your time off, or feeling guilty for taking a break, it could be time to reassess.
Feeling irritable and snappy
When we have no work/life balance, our emotions can feel heightened and more sensitive. We may feel our patience is wearing thin and our temper is harder to control. If you find yourself getting short with colleagues or snapping at loved ones often, it could be that you’re finding it difficult to cope and need to take a step back.
Similarly, when overwhelmed, we can become quite teary and emotional. Getting upset and frustrated at tasks that you normally find easy and enjoyable indicates you need some time out.
Your relationships are struggling
When was the last time you spent time with your family, laughed with friends or had a real conversation with your partner (that wasn’t talking about work)? If you can’t remember or people are telling you that they don’t see you anymore, it might be a sign you need to prioritise how you allocate your time.
The risk of imbalance
Wellness and the focus on self-care are very much becoming a part of modern life, but not all of us practise the idea. We work long hours, take little time off and try to fit as much in as we can when out of the office. While maintaining a social life is important, we also need to give ourselves time to completely relax. This may mean enjoying a moment of peace with breakfast in the morning, or scheduling in an hour to have a bath and pamper yourself in the evening.
You may feel you’re handling things well: perhaps you have a good job, you’re doing well in your role and still maintain a social life. Yet, you may be lacking balance in other aspects of your life. Consider for a moment; how much sleep you get each night, when was your last homemade meal, when was the last time you took a day off to spend with your partner?
Here are some of the risks that can come with imbalance:
Occupational burnout is thought to be a result of long-term, unresolvable job stress. When this isn't addressed it can lead to symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, short tempers and a lack of motivation. Over time, it can lead to mental health concerns including depression and anxiety. It also has the potential to cause problems with your employer, particularly if your productivity and working ability is affected.
Recovering from burnout is a slow process, not a race. As long as you keep facing the things that are impacting your emotional and physical wellbeing, you are working towards making positive changes.
- Read more about overcoming burnout
Stress, when not addressed, can build and build until, one day, it becomes too much. Chronic stress can lead to burnout and result in physical symptoms.
Physical and emotional symptoms of stress can include:
- feeling overwhelmed, or like you are losing control
- low self-esteem, feeling lonely and worthless
- becoming easily agitated
- lack of energy due to poor sleep
- aches, pains and tense muscles
- upset stomach
- frequently catching colds or illness
If you’re experiencing symptoms of stress, you may benefit from speaking to a professional, such as a counsellor or coach.
If you spend the majority of your spare time focusing on work, whether it be in the office or at home, it’s likely you don’t have much free time for your loved ones. Your friends and family need your time - neglecting them due to work commitments can affect these relationships, which can, in turn, heighten the impact of stress.
Your loved ones are there to support you but tensions can arise when they feel neglected. Nurturing these relationships is key for overall well-being, as well as an essential part of maintaining a good work/life balance.
Do I need help?
If you recognise the signs of poor work/life balance discussed here or are already facing some of the risks of imbalance, it could be helpful to seek support. Readdressing this balance can help you manage your stress and adjust your priorities for a more fulfilling life.
Working with a coach can help you identify blocks that are affecting your work/life balance and set goals to move past them. Learn more about what coaching involves and connect with a coach today.