The alarm clock goes off and I reach for my phone. Before I even swipe the screen with my thumb I notice the emails from work that have poured in during the late night and early morning hours. I can’t help but glance through them. I need to know if some immediate action is required.
And thus, before the day has even started — before my feet have even touched the floor — I’ve already begun to bury myself under a thick blanket of stress and pressure.
It’s easier than ever to work around the clock. We check our emails as soon as we’ve woken up, spend eight+ hours in the office, and go home with our phone in hand – still tapping out the day’s business and often not putting it down until we go to sleep.
When this behavior becomes a daily ritual, we miss out on the fullness of life. Relationships suffer, our creative spark can fade, and our health can be compromised as we become increasingly run down by the demands of work.
More often than not it takes a concerned family member or a caring friend to help us realize that we’ve become caught up in this destructive way of life. But before we let it get that far, here are five helpful questions to ask ourselves when we feel we may be overworked.
1. When was the last time I truly connected with someone?
I’m not talking about “grabbing coffee so we can discuss a new project.” I’m talking about leaving our phones in our bags and making eye contact. When is the last time you sat around with girlfriends and painted your nails or sat down with a hurting friend who just needed a listening ear? Ask yourself if work become so important that intentional times of connection and community have fallen to the wayside.
2. How do I spend my free time?
If your first response to this question is “I don’t have any free time,” then it’s definitely time to create some space. Humans need rest and time for taking in nature, beauty and for letting the mind wander. Making this space allows us to return to our work refreshed and inspired instead of constantly trudging through each task.
If you find yourself constantly checking emails or making calls after you leave the office, it’s essential to create some boundaries. For example, try to respond to the pertinent emails before you leave the office and leave the rest for the morning. Resolve that you will only check again once before bed, in case any emergencies arise, and only tend to what absolutely needs an immediate response. Then turn your email notifications off, close your computer, and enjoy your life!
Humans need rest and time for taking in nature, beauty and for letting the mind wander.
3. How have I been feeling physically?
Working late nights and running from one event to another usually means that we aren’t taking the best care of ourselves. We settle for greasy takeout and forgo a morning walk in the name of productivity, leaving our bodies struggling to run efficiently.
If you have been noticing that you feel sluggish, tired, bloated, or sick on a regular basis, take a look at your physical routine. Think about what you have been eating, how many hours of sleep you average, and how much exercise you participate in. Countless studies have shown that proper diet and exercise increases energy levels, keeps our mind alert, and helps us get better sleep. Perhaps it’s time to turn off our computers and go for a jog or take time to cook a delicious, healthy meal.
4. How have I been treating people lately?
Feeling stressed and rundown can cause us to feel overly irritated and sometimes lash out irrationally. Have you been feeling easily frustrated or annoyed? Or maybe you’ve been getting into regular arguments with your boyfriend, husband, or a sibling. If everyone close to you is tiptoeing on eggshells to avoid seeing you explode like a volcano, you can be fairly certain that you are dangerously close to caving under the pressure of being overworked.
5. What are my priorities?
It doesn’t take long for our priorities to get out of whack when work is taking over our lives. If you think you need to re-evaluate what is most important to you, try assembling a list. Are you in a season of life where work is what you desire to focus on the most? Or would you like to make more time for family, hobbies, and traveling? Only you know the best way of life that feeds your soul and keeps you joyful and light. Taking a moment to reorganize priorities can help us shift our focus back onto the things that matter to us most.
Today is the day. Take time to ask yourself these important questions. Go for a walk, curl up with your favorite mug filled with hot chocolate, lay on a blanket outside and get honest with yourself about balancing work and play.
How do you find a work/life balance in today’s digital age?
Image via Michelle Mosqueda