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7 Red Flags You’re Working Too Much

working too much

If you feel like work is consuming your life, you’re not alone. “Somewhere in the range of 40 to 50 hours per week is more than enough for most people,” says Randy Simon, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist based in Montclair and Summit, New Jersey. Prior to getting her Ph.D., Simon spent years working in corporate HR as a career and executive coach.

Did you know?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five Americans works 48 hours or more per week.

But simply counting work hours can be deceiving. Other factors that can lead to burnout include the length of your commute, outside responsibilities, work environment, feelings of appreciation, and job satisfaction.

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Instead, it might be more helpful to tune into your body. “Watch out for the moment you can’t enjoy your time off of work,” says Simon. “If work’s all-consuming, it’s not healthy.” Read on to see if your body is responding to your workload with any of these warning signs.

1. You turn to alcohol for relaxation

Working more than 40 hours per week can make you more likely to drink “risky” amounts of alcohol. That’s a minimum of 14 drinks for women and 21 drinks for men per week.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your risk for life-threatening conditions.

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Try this: Use your commute to rest

“That downtime is important because it’s time to reenergize. You should use it as a transition between work and home,” says Simon. Try to avoid screens on your way home if you work with computers during your day job. Instead, listen to your favorite Spotify playlist, an audio book, or a podcast.

2. Your productivity is stalling

If you’ve increased your hours without significant results, the longer hours are probably decreasing your productivity. A Stanford research paper found that people who worked 70 hours per week didn’t actually get more work done than their peers who worked 56 hours. “We’re not wired to be productive every minute of every day,” Simon adds.

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Try this: Make a to-do list

To avoid getting overwhelmed, avoid addressing everything at once. Multitasking might actually make you get less done. Instead Simon suggests honing in on your top three priorities each day. Using the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, which focuses on time-management and organization, can help you with efficiency and productivity.

3. You aren’t getting enough sleep and have daytime fatigue

It’s a simple formula: Being up longer leads to less sleep and more daytime fatigue. “If you’re charging through the workday for lengthy periods of time, it’s very hard to quiet your mind at bedtime,” says Simon. But poor sleep doesn’t just make you grumpy. It decreases productivity while increasing your risk for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Try this: Give yourself breaks

The Atlantic reports that the perfect work-break balance is 52 consecutive minutes of work and 17 minutes for break. So take 17-minute breaks throughout your day to walk outside, talk with a friend, or do some light stretching. This might help you overcome daytime sleepiness.

Read more: Tips to sleep better »

4. You’ve been feeling blue

You’re in the “living for the weekends” mindset (unless you work on the weekends, too). Working too much can take a toll on your mental health. One study found that workers who logged 11 hours per day were more likely to battle depression than those who worked seven to eight hours.

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Try this: mindfulness meditation

“It helps you to be present so your mind isn’t going in 100 directions. It’s like hitting a reset button,” says Simon. She recommends trying a meditation workshop or seeing a therapist. You can even use a meditation app on your commute home.

Learn more: 10 ways to leave stress behind »

5. Your heart’s working overtime, too

You might not really notice it, but work stress can release the hormone cortisol, which is hard on your heart. This in turn can increase your risk for stroke, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

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Try this: Get your “desk-ercise” on in the office

A stand-up desk isn’t the only solution to sitting too much. Try conducting more stand-up meetings or plan coffee breaks with coworkers that require quick walks outside. You can also plan to eat lunch in the common area instead of your desk. Every step counts!

6. Your back and neck are aching

Repetition isn’t always a good thing. A study in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal found that the more hours people worked, the greater their risk for back pain. “For women, the pain tends to show up in the neck, while for men it’s in the lower back. It’s a common sign of stress caused by muscle tension,” says Simon.

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Try this: Consider a therapist

If you’re really struggling with stress, therapy can help. “It’s not normal to have back pain or trouble sleeping. Talking to someone about your individual situation can help you enjoy life more,” says Simon.

7. Your relationships are taking a hit

Even if you have time for relationships, the stress, fatigue, and depression that you’re experiencing due to work may take a toll on them as well.

Try this: Prioritize fun stuff on your schedule

Work can stick with you after hours, especially if you’re self-employed. To decompress, include non-work activities on your to-do list, like exercise, listening to music, or time with friends. “Make sure these things are built into your week or scheduled every day if you can,” says Simon.

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Focus on the big picture

Getting ahead shouldn’t make you sick. If you’re working long hours with no end in sight, your boss may be able to help. “Think through your accomplishments and how you’re contributing to the company. Then go to your boss and bring those up. Follow that with the fact that you’re finding your work hours have taken over and you’re not as efficient,” says Simon.

Don’t forget that having happy, productive employees is in your company’s best interest. “It helps keeps people more engaged in their work and more likely to stay and contribute,” says Simon.

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Keep reading: 5 signs you’re heading for a burnout at work and how to fix it »

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