The struggle to find a balance between work and a good personal, social, and active lifestyle has never been bigger. Modern-day culture creates an almost impossible list of demands for us to complete, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and stressed.
But stress causes a myriad of problems for your mental and physical health, and could be damaging everything from your heart health to the condition of your skin and hair! Being stuck in the paradox of wanting to work hard, but also enjoy life outside of work, adds to the stress when you don’t know how to split your time.
It’s said that spending time away from work and finding hobbies and passions to focus on may actually improve your job performance and make you more attractive to future employers! But if that isn’t enough to encourage you, let’s look at how an imbalance between work and leisure can impact you personally.
Working long hours, or working under a lot of pressure, can lead to something called “burnout”. Burnout is generally seen as chronic stress related to the workplace and leaves you feeling exhausted, cynical of your job, and less able to do the work. Lack of job satisfaction, and dreading work each day, can take a toll on your mental health.
When we go through stress, our body releases a hormone called Cortisol. Evolution shows that we need stress to survive. You see, when the body’s adrenal glands send out Cortisol, it goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which is also what causes a release of Adrenaline. The release of Adrenaline would help you to run away from a physical threat, such as an attack for example - but stress from a job is not a physical threat, so your mind and body go into overload!
To avoid burnout, you need to create a good work-life balance for yourself. Different parts of your health suffer when you allow yourself to spend too much of your time at work or thinking about work.
Stress can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Long term stress can eventually become chronic stress, which leads to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and frequent fatigue.
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can cause you to have negative feelings towards all aspects of life, not just about work. Losing interest in things you used to enjoy, feelings of hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts are common symptoms of depression, but it can affect people differently.
Being under the mental strain of work can also impact your relationships with partners, friends, and family. It can cause you to pull away from people, or lash out at the people closest to you. Talking about your emotions is important, especially when suffering from feelings of anxiety or depression, but those same feelings can prevent you from wanting to talk to people.
Working long hours at a desk can cause you to lose muscle strength and give you an uneven posture. Regular movement helps to decrease the risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Studies have found that sitting for long periods, instead of standing, can decrease life expectancy.
But there are less obvious ways that overworking can affect you. Stress is proven to weaken the immune system, which is essential to fighting off infections and keeping us healthy! The stress hormone, corticosteroid, suppress the immune function so that our infection-fighting white blood cells are less able to battle the antigens that enter our body. So, you may notice in particularly stressful times that you’re more prone to getting a sniffly nose or a funny stomach.
The body’s response to stress increases your heart rate. The stress hormone, adrenaline, that’s triggered by the natural “fight or flight” response, causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to increase. So, constant stress puts your internal self into overload – this is said to severely heighten your chance of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of Americans.
Overworking often leads to unhealthy habits, too. After a long day at work, you want to unwind, right? For some, that means having a drink or two at the local bar, smoking a cigarette to calm down, or binge eating. These habits, especially when done in excess, can have damaging effects on your health.
High levels of stress are known to have damaging effects on your skin and hair, too! The physical implications of burnout can make you look older than you are, which can lower self-confidence. Let’s first look at how stress affects your skin.
There are a few reasons why you might notice breakouts on your skin, whether that be in the form of acne, psoriasis or eczema. The release of the stress hormone, Cortisol, throws your other hormones off balance, causing imperfections to appear on the skin. Stress can also affect your gut, by outweighing the good and bad bacteria that sits in it. Uneven bacteria in the gut can cause rashes and hives, as well as unwanted pimples.
There’s the added factor of diet when you’re experiencing stress. When working long hours, it’s not uncommon for you to choose quick and easy food, as well as energy drinks or coffee to keep you going. These dietary choices can show up as pimples and blemishes on the skin, and exacerbate existing skin conditions.
Under-eye bags are far from ideal – they make you look tired and ill, and there’s only so much concealer you can cover them with. When you’re experiencing stress or burnout, there’s a high chance that you’re lacking the sleep you need, which in turn makes you feel more stressed. Sleep deprivation results in higher levels of Cortisol itself, so it antagonizes the body even more!
Bags under the eyes are caused by the pooling of fluid to the area around the eyes, and the best way to fix them is by getting more sleep and staying hydrated. You can also apply serums, which can improve the appearance of under-eye bags.
Dehydration can be dangerous for your inner organs as well as your skin, which is itself an organ. Lacking hydration can cause the brain to strain, as well as muscles and organs. But it can impact the appearance of your skin!
Hydration is a key factor in the body’s production of collagen, which is what keeps your skin looking young and plump. Without collagen, wrinkles and fine lines are more visible, and skin may start to sag.
Staying hydrated will also keep your skin from looking dry and flaky – you should moisturize on the outside and stay hydrated on the inside to avoid dry skin!
Stress has been linked to hair loss and thinning, but the causes could differ! The same way stress can damage the appearance and feel of your skin, it can also be detrimental to the health of your hair.
There are three stages to the hair growth process: The Anagen stage (growth), the Catagen stage (transition), and the Telogen stage (rest). Stress can trigger what’s known as Telogen effluvium, which occurs when the hair growth cycle stops at the Telogen stage, and the follicles don’t grow any new hairs.
Telogen effluvium is a reversible condition and is just a temporary disturbance to the cycle. With changes to lifestyle, you can stop it. (But do note that it’s normal and natural to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, because of the hair growth cycle.)
Alopecia areata is a condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing patches of hair to fall out at one time. It’s often associated with experiencing high levels of stress for an extended period. The cause of it is likely to be a weakened immune system, so once you lower stress levels, the hair will stop falling out and in most cases grow back.
Trichollitomaniais the name for the habitual pulling of hair from the eyebrows, eyelashes, or scalp. It’s most frequently known to be a coping mechanism for feelings of anxiety or stress. People who do suffer from Trichollitomania may see bald patches in the area that they’ve pulled hair from. It’s possible to see hair regrow later on when the habit is given up.
If you are experiencing hair thinning, try Cel’s Microstem Shampoo & Conditioner. It’s proven to promote hair growth using stem cells, which strengthens hair and encourages high cell turnover for new hairs to grow.
There’s also the issue of diet. As with the skin, the foods you eat can exacerbate existing problems, such as dandruff, and worsen hair thinning or hair loss. Choosing a nutritious diet rather than unhealthy snacks will help keep hair in good condition.
Science backs up the saying that stress can make your hair go gray – it’s not just a myth. You see, when experiencing high-stress levels, the body struggles to produce a pigment called melanin, which is what keeps your natural color in your hair. When the body is experiencing long term stress, which happens with burnout, the imbalance of hormones can deplete the melanin-producing stem cells, which causes the hair to turn gray.
The best thing to do, to save your mind and body from the perils of burnout, is to reduce the amount of time you spend at work or thinking about work. That includes checking emails and taking calls out of hours.
Spend more time with your friends and family in the evenings if you want, or take time for yourself to read a book or watch TV. Turning your mind off from work-related activities will help you to separate your home life from work life.
Finding hobbies and passions outside of work will give you goals to achieve that are unrelated to your job. It can be a physical sport, joining a board games club, learning an instrument, or perhaps painting or pottery. Find something that you think could be fun – there’s no harm in trying something new each week!
Don’t let yourself be weighed down by the stress of work, and don’t let life feel mundane. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone may seem scary, but once you’ve done it you’ll hopefully feel fulfilled! Plus, it might increase your self-confidence, which will, in turn, benefit your job performance. It’s a win-win!
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