They say if you find a job you love, then you never work a day in your life. But how often does that happen for people, really? And how often are even the best jobs fully stress-free?
It can be hard to judge whether the stress that you’re going through at work is truly worthwhile. Is it a temporary ‘rough patch’ that will soon end, or is your workplace anxiety here to stay? Here are some signs that your job might be too stressful.
You don’t have any time to de-stress
Not just time for yourself, but time enough to complete your work. The occasional late night/early morning happens in all sorts of roles – or maybe you have a particularly busy season each year, and overall it evens out. But if you’re consistently burning the candle at both ends – that’s a sign of an excessive workload.
But if you’re constantly overwhelmed, perhaps your role is just asking too much of you. And you’re not alone – 46% of American workers say their main cause of stress is their workload. Talk to your managers and colleagues to assess whether you can receive some support – if none is forthcoming, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.
Equally you might feel like your workload would be manageable if you weren’t so stressed: it’s very common for workplace stress to cause intense procrastination. If you’re so wound up that you can’t face getting on with what you have to do, that’s a sign that stress is attacking your productivity.
Stress makes your work seem unclear
Impostor syndrome can be very common, especially in the beginning of a new role or position, but after a few months – you should know what is expected of you. However, this isn’t always the case, and can lead to feelings of panic, fear, and insecurity. Fair enough, everyone occasionally loses the thread of what they’ve set out to achieve, but if you feel constantly in the dark then that stress is likely too much for you.
When I was supporting people to find new positions, my most commonly-heard reason for leaving was that the role was mis–sold to them. If your expectations of the job and what you’re subsequently asked to do fail to align, then this incongruity will be stressful. It might have been a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding, but the longer it happens, the more unwell you are likely to be.
If you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to bring it up: but be sure to be constructive. Talk to your manager about what you had anticipated from the role, and how you believed it matched your skillset – offer ideas of how your skills can be better utilized. Alternatively, ask for a training plan or internal transfer, as an opportunity to really drill down into the job requirements.
You start losing a part of yourself due to work stress
Finding yourself irritable, forgetful, or just plain apathetic? If all your energy goes towards your work, you might become short-tempered or unable to focus on other aspects of your life. Often the symptoms of a stressful job can mirror those of depression, and leave you feeling overwhelmed, tearful, or empty.
Everyone is prone to the occasional ‘Sunday Sadness’, but if you’re spending your weekends filled with dread for the coming week, unable to enjoy your time off – this is a sign that your role is getting to be too much. You need to take a proper break in order to maintain your own wellbeing, and allow yourself to enjoy your downtime.
Equally if you’re unable to sleep or wake up worrying about work most nights, this can lead to long-term health problems – and cause a vicious cycle of being tired at work, stressed out about being tired… You get the drill. Make sure you put your wellbeing first.
Work stress makes you more ill
Perhaps you’ve been having more headaches since taking on a new role or promotion, or perhaps you suddenly have digestive problems working on a new project. Or suddenly you find yourself taking time off with flu when you don’t remember having it before.
That could be because of workplace stress. One common symptom of stress is an increased number of colds or bugs – stress hormones mean that your body is unable to fight off infections and viruses. Letting these problems overwhelm you long-term can even lead to a more serious condition, like heart attacks or strokes, or mental health issues like depression or panic attacks.
And that’s without the secondary effects of stress, like drinking, smoking, lack of exercise or poor diet. So if you feel like you can’t unwind from the workday without a glass or two of wine, or the only break you get from your desk is for a brief nicotine hit, it might be that your stress is affecting your physical health.
Is your job too stressful?
There’s a difference between stressful periods and long-term anxieties, in the same way that some stresses can give you drive and focus and some can weigh you down. Remind yourself why you took your current job and whether those reasons are still relevant. Be honest with what you are looking for and ask yourself how to obtain it.
Sadly, no one but you can ascertain if your job is too stressful. But if everything on this list looks a little too familiar, and you don’t remember that last time that you really enjoyed work – that’s a sign. Balancing ambition and stress can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Wondering how to achieve this? Here are 7 ways to reduce workplace related stress.
Writer based in Yorkshire, UK. Seven years of experience working in - and writing about - recruitment across temporary and permanent markets, and a range of sectors. Copywriter and proofreader for a decade. Passionate about cats, booze and origami!