Work pressure is a constant in today’s workaholic culture. Indeed, formerly 40-hour workweeks have gone beyond 60. Not for all, naturally. But despite Sweden’s six-hours workday, most places still go for extra hours.
While there’s clear work pressure resulting from working 12 hours a day, this is not the only source. Numerous other stressors have an equally strong influence. Because everything is changing at a faster rate. You need to be swift and learn new things quickly and simultaneously.
Without enough sleep, everything becomes tiresome. Similarly, anxiety builds up. Everything you experience is on the negative side of things. Even a new advancement opportunity can become a sordid affair. In effect, what happens is that you fuel your own misery.
This series covers what work pressure does to you, why it’s bad, and how to cope. But first, let’s see how you can best detect work pressure.
Spotting work pressure in how you feel
This is all about patterns. Improving life quality is all about healthy patterns. Similarly, a great work-life balance also relies on healthy patterns. So, it’s not surprising in the least that work pressure happens when your patterns are disrupted.
As a matter of fact, take a moment to consider how you’ve been. Ponder upon the past few weeks. Are good things turning on the negative side? If your patterns are disrupted, you’d likely feel at least two of the following:
1. You’re repeatedly pressing the call-in-sick button
In the event that you keep rigorous health stats, you’re in luck. You will quickly spot the oddity. That unexpected cold. In the event that you’re simply the regular person, you should still be able to tell.
Perhaps you can already tell you’re getting sick more often. Twice as many colds in the past few months. The last time you felt excited about ice-cream was back in college. You have a runny nose so often, everybody at work simply assumes that’s how you talk.
How often do you feel like you’d simply love to call in sick? That’s the real sign. That means you’re under so much pressure that both your mind and body can’t cope.
The mechanisms of stress and cortisol are complex. Here’s the simple version. Stress goes hand in hand with higher cortisol concentrations. Cortisol is also known as the “stress-hormone”. It’s what happens when you feel threatened or anxious. Your adrenal glands spew out adrenaline and noradrenaline. Both of them are good friends with cortisol secretions. Naturally, cortisol is great for your body, keeping it going and ready to escape from danger. In effect, cortisol takes energy away from the immune system. And after your “fight or flight” wears off, you begin to feel bad.
Sure, maybe you won’t do anything as cool as this guy, who created a cron-job that sends a sick–day email. Whenever his work computer detects no activity past 08:45 AM. The script also adds a randomly selected excuse. There’s a file with a list of excuses. It’s hilarious.
In fact, most people tend to stay away from sick days. In the current workaholic culture, sick days make you seem unreliable. Almost like you’re cheating.
2. Good sleep becomes an old friend you seldom meet
Sleep is an essential, often neglected, part of your work life. Not to mean you should sleep at work, although some companies offer just that. But it’s not sleep pods that you’d have an issue with.
There are two types of issues that are most common. Either not having enough sleep or finding it hard to fall asleep.
To clarify, their causes stem from work pressure. Yet they are a direct consequence of two very different things:
- The first is chronic sleep deprivation due to being overworked.
- The latter is a consequence of anxiety – you can’t rest.
Either of these changes point to work pressure. In fact, most adults sleep far less than they should. The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep every night. That is to say a minimum, not the average sleep requirements. Research shows most adults needs about 8 hours of sleep or more. The direct consequence of lack of sleep is even more work pressure.
But there’s more. Just because you put in the hours doesn’t mean you get all the benefits. To clarify, sleeping for 8 or 9 hours does not guarantee an overall good quality of sleep. After all, the next-door party might make your sleep a horrible experience.
And it’s not just getting older. Perhaps some years ago you would’ve been at that party. It’s all about your choice. And work pressure doesn’t give you a choice. When work pressure affects your sleep, things change without your consent. All you can do is feel tired.
Have you been feeling tired lately? Was it the partying or the work? If your answer is “not partying”, then it’s likely you felt too much work pressure. It’s sleep science.
3. Your eating behavior is going crazy
Once again, the same cause for two very dissimilar behaviors. Work pressure can make you overeat. Anxiety-induced eating is comfort eating. And comfort eating goes hand in hand with junk food. You know, stuffing your face with candy bars and the like.
But even the healthiest of foods won’t do you much good if you eat it while anxious. And once the panic subsides, your body has a whole mess to sort out.
The other option is undereating. When you’re not eating or you’re not feeling hungry either, that’s cortisol again. Telling your body that you’re doing fine without food. Better go back to work.
While some claim there are benefits to not eating a whole day, it’s all about context. Sure, intermittent fasting has been around for millennia. Most cultures have some form of intermittent fasting (I.F.), that’s true. Few of them, however, are practiced because of anxiety. Or panic or feeling too worried to eat.
There’s a clear set difference between I.F. and not eating because of feeling stressed. Work pressure makes you not eat. Meanwhile, I.F. can even be beneficial with the right mindset (calm, relaxed, accepting).
Either way, any change in appetite indicates stress. Moreover, just because you’re skipping lunch doesn’t mean you won’t stuff your face later. With loads of ice-cream. Stress affects our metabolism, encouraging fat storage. Almost like telling our bodies: “I’m nervous, you better save some fat for later.”
As promised in the beginning of this article, we’ll continue this series with a piece focusing on how to prevent work pressure from turning into stress. So don’t forget to check in for practical advice.