5 Signs that It’s Time to Slow Work Down a Little

We all know that stress is no laughing matter, but the American Institute of Stress (AIS) shares with us plenty of data to suggest that the state of job-related stress in the U.S. is even more serious than many of us realize.

In fact, it’s workplace stress that is by far the largest contributor to the increasingly high stress levels of American adults, according to the AIS. And, of those who experience stress due to problems with their job, 46% report that it’s their workload, specifically, which is causing them grief.

How do we know whether or not we’ve become part of the 46%? How can we gauge when the work we’ve undertaken is too much and, more importantly, when we should slow down?


Keep an eye out for the following signs that it might be time to say “no” the next time your boss tasks you with the 100th addition to your current workload.

  1. You notice changes in your eating and drinking habits. 

Psychotherapist Ching-Ling Chiang told Financial Management magazine that suddenly consuming loads of calories or sugar can be a tell-tale sign that the stress is becoming too much. The same goes for a sudden increase in alcohol consumption.

  1. Your to-do list is growing faster than you can empty it. 

Even if you’re productive throughout your workday and check off several items from your to-do lists, it means little if you’ve only added more items than you’ve completed. If you don’t remember the last time your calendar was empty, you’re probably trying to do too much.

  1. You’re always tired, you sleep too much, or you can’t sleep at all. 

Changes in sleep patterns can be just as telling as changes in food and beverage consumption. Chronic fatigue, emotional exhaustion, dread, and difficulties falling or staying asleep are all clinical signs of burnout.

  • You feel guilty taking a break.

  • A study from the University of Georgia authored by Malissa Clark, Ph.D. tells us that overwork can lead to interruptions in both our health and our happiness. We need mental breaks, Clark emphasizes, so reevaluate your workload if you find yourself unable to enjoy a night off.

  • You notice physical symptoms like body aches or frequent colds.

  • There is perhaps no sign more telling than having a persistent cold, your body’s way of begging you to lessen your workload and take a rest. Tension aches and muscle spasms may be signs of workplace stress, too.

    If you notice one or more of these signs cropping up in your life, be kind to yourself and take time to schedule more breaks. If you can, take some time off. Delegate parts of your workload to others, if possible, and take stock of your responsibilities.

    Self-love is the best kind of love.