7 Signs You Need to Work Less

A year ago, I woke up in a pool of sweat in front of my roommate’s bedroom door. My head throbbed, and when I rubbed the top of it, my hand was covered in blood. Ten minutes earlier, I’d crawled to the bathroom with crippling stomach cramps, the result of food poisoning, dehydration and over-working myself. It hurt so bad, I was certain I had appendicitis, and next thing I knew, I collapsed face-first near the couch in our tiny apartment, fainting from the sharp jabs and intense pain and giving myself a black eye in the process. I limped into a taxi and rushed over to the ER, where I was relieved to learn my appendix was fine but that I’d eaten a poorly made cheeseburger.

I blamed the red meat for passing out and going to the hospital, but there was more to it than the food I’d consumed. My roommate had ordered the same entree and been fine, but I’d been working myself ragged for the past couple of months and that had finally caught up with me. Arianna Huffington had a similar experience pertaining to sleep deprivation, another thing that weakened my spirits and well-being. A good work ethic is expected and valued in this country, but there’s a difference between working hard and working smart, and believe me, you stop working smart the second you put your health at risk for professional gains. Here are some signs that you need to give yourself a break at the office and take more time for yourself.

7. You dream about doing work

Back when I was an online editor, I used to dream about editing articles a couple of times a month. It was funny at first, especially because some of my co-workers admitted to doing the same, but everyone needs off-time to be productive and effective on the clock, and how can you accomplish these things if you’re plugging away when you’re supposed to be resting and recharging?

6. You’re snappy

I’m ashamed to say I’ve fallen into this ugly trap before, and there’s really no excuse for it. Everyone else is tirelessly working to achieve great things, but if you’re so overwhelmed you can’t even be courteous, it’s time for a good night’s sleep, Netflix (or Hulu!) marathon, tasty cocktail and phone/Skype date with your BFF.

5. You collapse

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington might seem like she has everything, but the media powerhouse knows she’s nothing without her health. As mentioned above, while working nonstop to perfect her product about six years ago, she collapsed from exhaustion after visiting colleges with her daughter: “[T]he ground rule was no BlackBerry during the day, so I stayed up very late to catch up on work. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, bloodied. I had passed out from exhaustion and banged my head on the way down. The result was a broken cheekbone and five stitches under my eyebrow. And it was also a wake-up call, leading me to renew my estranged relationship with sleep.”

Huffington talks about the uncomfortable but necessary event in her new book Thrive, and if you find yourself going through something like this, you ought to reevaluate your priorities and figure out a way to keep your health, both physical and mental, in good standing as you build up your resume.

4. You work around the clock and it affects your relationships

It’s not unusual to bring work home. People in all professions do it, oftentimes to stay on top of things and avoid falling behind. You have to know when to pull the trigger though, and this means setting the iPhone or BlackBerry aside, talking about things other than work (at least a little bit), staying off email and being fully present. You run the risk of pushing people away when you refuse to ever part with your work, and while a certain level of this is universal in our culture, you have to prove to yourself and those you love that you’re more than your job.

3. You never eat meals away from your computer

Seriously, eat lunch outside the office! This goes beyond lunchtime, as plenty of people have breakfast and dinner at their desks too. Your work will be better if you’re not simultaneously trying to finish a meal, and the food will be tastier and fresher if you gobble it down at once.

2. You talk about work in your sleep

Significant others are good for lots of things, and they’ll definitely let you know when you’re mumbling about work in your sleep. It’s similar to dreaming about the office. You need some separation!

1. You fall asleep at work

This is a big no-no. If you’re so drained that you shut your eyes on the job, you need to devote more time to your personal health and less to work perfectionism. In short, much of this circles back to sleep, which makes you look healthier, feel great and treat others with respect. Your health should always come first, but it’s also unprofessional to snooze at work. Your boss might let you off easy and chalk it up to working hard, but he or she will probably just get upset about it.

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How do you know when you’re over-working yourself? Share in the comments section.