First of all, if you have the inkling that might be, chances are, you’re probably right.
One of the first things you may notice is a slight change in your mood. Did you find yourself snapping at that person who barged past on you on the tube, or were you quick to lose your temper in the traffic jam? Waking up each morning with a sense of dread about stepping into the office and ‘surviving’ the day is a sure sign you’re overdoing it.
From a physical point of view, we show subtle changes in our physiology, whether we realise or not. In the human body, there is a balance between our sympathetic (a.k.a. ‘fight or flight’) system, and our parasympathetic (a.k.a. ‘calming’ system). When we’re working very hard and are under stress we begin to show signs of loss of heart rate variability.
- If you’re worried that you’re working too hard, you probably are. (Pic: Pexels)
In happy, healthy humans, heart rate varies a little from beat to beat - there is a ‘flattening’ of this response, which is actually measurable, when we’re stressed. This can be recorded via a little external heart rate monitor, and is sometimes used to measure stress and relaxation volumes in health assessments. If you think you are someone who ‘thrives’ on stress and long hours, this kind of data can be a real wake-up call, when you realise you aren’t invincible after all.
If you think you are someone who ‘thrives’ on stress and long hours, heart rate data can be a real wake-up call, when you realise you aren’t invincible after all.
Lack of sleep, following an exhausting workday also makes us fat. Cortisol levels rise with sleep deprivation, and a lengthy day with little sleep can severely impede your concentration levels, which is why people sometimes fall asleep dead at the wheel. Paradoxically, failing to drop off to sleep easily, even if you’re desperate for sleep, is a sign that your ‘engine’ is very stressed.
Or you may just find yourself failing to give sufficient time to friends and family. It’s worth checking in with them and asking them how many times you recently said you were too busy, had to cancel at the last moment or had to put work before good times. This should be the exception, not the rule.
We’ve all experienced what it’s like when someone asks you to make an important decision at 6.15pm, and our brain just refuses to ‘compute’.
Even whilst at work, we are affected by an over-long day. We’ve all experienced what it’s like when someone asks you to make an important decision at 6.15pm, and our brain just refuses to ‘compute’. This is decision fatigue (and it also explains why you can’t decide what to have for dinner either!)
If you find yourself increasingly making work errors, check in on the number of hours you’ve worked that week. If you are backed into a corner and really have to get an urgent task completed, you are far better off getting your head down for a nap - or having a proper night’s sleep - and returning bright and early to the task next morning.
Cory Cook works to improve time management for busy people.