We all know how difficult it can be to find a healthy work-life balance, especially in this ultra-connected era of technology – but not making it a priority has consequences. When you let work take over your life, it’s not just your mental health that suffers – your physical health pays the price too.
Here, we take a look at some of the impacts that stress can have on the body, so that you can notice the symptoms and readjust your life to a healthy balance.
The physical impact of stress
You may not realise it in the moment, but when you hear your phone ping in the night with an email or receive tough feedback in a meeting, your body releases stress hormones as a response. These hormones are important. They are part of our evolutionary defence to help our bodies survive stressful events, but if the stress never stops, our bodies release these hormones for far longer than is healthy.
This can lead to burnout, which is a result of chronic, unmitigated stress. All that long-term pressure comes out in very physical things like digestive issues, fatigue, and interruptions to your appetite. On an even bigger scale, chronic stress is linked to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and a range of cardiovascular issues.
The good news is that, as a short term issue, stress is not bad for you. However, staying in that state of stress and never stepping back from the cause of it is where the harm starts. You need balance – and this is where setting boundaries at work has to come into play.
Working more and sleeping less
Working long hours has often been seen as a glamorous marker of success. If you’re the last person in the office, you’re the most ambitious. If you’re still online at 2 am, you’re the most dedicated. The effect this lifestyle can have on your body however is not so glamorous. Constantly prioritising work over sleep has a significant impact on your physical health.
In 2015, a study from University College London found that those who worked more than 55 hours a week increased their chance of having a stroke by 33% in comparison to those who worked 35-40 hours a week. There are many issues that can lead to a stroke, but the low mobility, chronic stress, and sleep deprivation associated with working long hours are all risk factors.
The life you’re neglecting
A big part of maintaining physical health is having the time to do the things that are good for you. If your entire life is skewed toward work, it’s unlikely you’ll have the time to make a healthy dinner, let alone go for a walk in the park.
Try, wherever you can, to have a good work-life balance. Work isn’t the villain here, but it cannot always be the most important thing, especially when your physical health is at stake. You need to find the balance, set boundaries, and respect them.