It’s pretty much a given that as a manager, you’re going to have more high-level responsibilities than the employees you oversee. But feeling chronically overworked and stressed is not something you should just live with as a condition of your job.
“Stress is a normal reaction that helps us cope with challenges and threats in the environment, but we’re only meant to experience it in short bursts,” says David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence with the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.
If you recognize these seven signs about yourself and your job, it might be time to seek out a change.
Being a good manager means you make yourself “mentally and emotionally available to those you work with,” says Jason Lauritsen, director of client success at Quantum Workplace, an employee-engagement software company in Omaha, Nebraska. But when you’re overworked, you’ve got less to give; you’re worn thin, increasing the likelihood of friction between you and others. Here’s another way of looking at it: “It’s like trying to download an app on your phone when the memory is full,” says Lauritsen. “The only way to fix it is to uninstall something from your day-to-day grind to make some room.”
With so much on your mind, you’re going to forget things from time to time. But unless your job eases its grip, your memory is likely only going to get worst. That’s because when you’re under stress, it’s hard to think clearly and form new memories, says Dr. Julie Anderson, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon. When you’re overworked and experiencing burnout, you may have trouble concentrating and can become quite forgetful, she says.
As a manager, you’re in demand much of the workday. Poor time management can cause undue stress on you and your team. “If you’re constantly running behind and on tight deadlines, the pressure never lets up, and it can feel like you don’t even have a minute to breathe,” Ballard says. “Sometimes this comes from an excessive workload, but other times it’s just that you need to learn to manage your time more effectively.”.
Are you constantly telling yourself that things will get better after tax time, performance reviews, the merger or the next big thing that’s happening? “This is a form of denial,” Lauritsen says. “When we feel overworked, it can be hard to muster the energy to really consider the circumstances and take intentional action to do something about it. So, instead, we try to make ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves that if we wait long enough, things will get better on their own.”
Managing a team can be exhausting, but it can also be incredibly exhilarating when everyone is performing at their best. That being said, it’s one thing to work hard, but it’s something else entirely when you’re completely depleted 24/7. If you’re bowled over at work, you may experience sleep disturbances, Anderson says, which includes having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. “Some people become so tired and unmotivated that they sleep all day and don't feel rested,” she says.
Looking out for other people on your team is great, but not when you’re so overworked that you stop looking out for yourself. “People with burnout tend to get sick easier and feel tired, nauseous or generally unwell more often,” Anderson says. Increased stress hormones in your body, produced in response to feelings of overwork and being overwhelmed, can suppress immunity and make it harder to fight infections. Often the cycle is compounded when you neglect self-care tasks like exercising and eating healthfully, she says.
Sad but true. “Turns out, there can be too much of a good thing,” Lauritsen says. “Even when we love what we do, if we can’t ever seem to catch up or get ahead, the joy quickly fades. The problem is that when we lose our passion for our work, it impacts our performance.”
If your head is underwater and nobody is offering you a hand, it’s time to start looking for a new job. The right employer will put your skills and leadership abilities to good use without taking advantage of you.