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How Overworking Affects Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It

Overworking is a ubiquitous and long-standing topic of concern in occupational health. Furthermore, it’s common knowledge that overworking is detrimental to one’s mental health. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, people who work long hours and are exposed to a heavy and demanding volume of work are more likely to develop depression. Despite this, many people still tend to carry on beyond their usual 8-hour shift — some by choice while others forced to do so.

So, if you’ve made it a habit to stay behind when everyone else has gone home or you voluntarily work even during the weekends, try to break this nasty habit and save yourself from getting a mental breakdown.

How does overworking affect mental health?

The main effect of overworking to one’s mental health is elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When you work, say, sixty-plus hours a week, you’re constantly worried about various work aspects like deadlines, job performance, criticism, and projects. With so much pressure on your shoulders, your body’s stress level will spike and cause anxiety, burnout, or depression. In turn, this can lead you to feel demotivated, exhausted, and lazy. Your productivity will take a hit, and you’ll start feeling physically unwell soon enough.

A study also revealed that women who worked 55 hours or more per week have a 7.3% chance of developing depressive symptoms, while men had none. However, the male population has a 3.4% increased risk of developing depression if they work during the weekend (women have a 4.6% risk).

The Overworked Employees of Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the most progressive and industrialized nations in the world. But the country’s workforce is severely affected by its work culture. If you didn’t know, the Japanese have the longest working hours compared to other highly industrialized countries. A low base pay compels employees to put in more overtime and work during holidays and night shifts.

Overworking is so commonplace in Japan that they even have a term for death due to overwork — Karoshi. According to reports, victims of Karoshi had worked 3,000 hours per annum. To give you a clue on how bad that is, working 3,000 hours a year comes down to at least 58 hours of work a week. In 2007, a statistics report revealed that in 2,207 work-related suicides, 672 of these were due to overwork.

What can you do to stop overworking?

The first step is to acknowledge that you are an overworked individual — a sort of wake-up call that you’re harming your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It will be a challenge because your body will be used to overworked conditions. But here are a few things you can do to help you start:

a. Ask yourself: “Is this necessary? Is it worth it?”

Your automatic answer to these questions will most likely be “yes”. But think about it: is it really worth risking your own well-being just to get a pat on your back from your boss? You can excel at your job even while working your regular hours. You don’t have to feel compelled to stay at the office to finish projects when you can do it the next day.

b. Set your tasks according to the order of priority

By doing this, you will be more focused on finishing tasks with the highest priority during your shift. By the end of the day, you will most likely have finished all the tasks that need attending to and will be left with the least important tasks. Since these aren’t as urgent, you will feel more at ease to leave these out until the next day.

c. Learn how to say “No”

Most overworked individuals are those who find it hard to say “no” when their boss or manager asks them to complete an extra task. While you may feel uncomfortable saying “no” to a higher authority figure in the office, it is also your right as an employee to deny these requests when you already have a lot on your plate. Give yourself a break and stop accepting extra work!

Aside from these three tips, you can also practice other ways to stop yourself from overworking. Just keep in mind that your life should never revolve around work. Make sure to give yourself a huge dose of self-love and pampering once in a while — your body needs it!

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