Is your body telling you it hates your job? Read on to find out all the signs that you might have missed in your check-ins with yourself!
Working in the realm of digital and social media, I personally feel incredibly happy to see the rise in conversations surrounding mental health and self-care. There is more awareness and the doors to notions such as mental wellbeing and therapy aren’t as tightly shut as they used to be.
Still, people of my parent’s generation are often found sniggering away at the mention of work-stress induced headaches. The last time I asked the mothership to take a day off from work because her back ache was killing her, she looked at me like I was from another planet. Growing up in a desi household, I, as several other members of my woke-ish generation have been taught to value output and productivity above health. We’ve seen our preceding generations normalise fatigue, exhaustion or even anxiety as a natural by-product of squandering life away at a safe work desk.
Now obviously, a lot of the symptoms that follow can also be a marker of an unexplored health issue.
So a disclaimer: if you do suffer from any of the following, it does not necessarily point to a stressful work life. It might potentially be tied in with a health issue, in which case, please do get medical consultation.
If that is not the case however, and your regular health reports seem physically normal, here are a few things you might like to consider instead. So find out, is your body telling you it hates your job?
A bad job can affect more than your peace of mind
We don’t generally ponder over how much of our day (and our lives) is spent working. If we did, we’d also realise that work has a direct correlation to our general state of being and feeling.
That annoying coworker you think you don’t give two hoots about? Spoiler alert: you probably do. That micromanaging boss you think you can forget about outside of work? You’re probably ranting about them with your set of close people. And naturally so.
Several studies suggest long-term health benefits for those who love what they do. Employee satisfaction has been associated with lower turnover rates, increased customer loyalty, employee productivity and better business results overall. Similarly, the opposite is also true.
Unending dissatisfaction, lack of meaning and toxicity at work can turn into debilitating stress that ends up ruining your long-term health.
Here are some signs to watch out for, so you can nip this pattern in the bud.
You find a pattern of sleepless nights
I have countless memories of her waking up in the middle of the night t0 answer texts/feed in her to-do lists and have full fledged conversations with her superiors on some breaking news that needed immediate attention. When I was in school preparing for my Board exams, I was often heard mumbling psychology definitions and repeating literary alliterations in my sleep.
No, this is not a commentary on my family’s skewed sleeping habits. It is however, an instance of what unacknowledged stress can do to your sleeping patterns.
An anxiety and behavioural study suggests that the first thing stress-inflicted patients complain of is sleepless nights. Patients report either the difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. They often find their mind racing or waking up at odd hours of the night thinking about their to-do lists.
A few restless nights may not necessarily be a huge deal but if it does transpire into a pattern, that may be a sign of your ordinary job stress wreaking havoc on your being. This can also translate into waking up every morning feeling miserable.
Pro tip: Try observing your work day and your corresponding sleep patterns. Was the night before a crucial presentation particularly restless? Do you often have trouble sleeping when there’s a sense of added work pressure or when your boss becomes a tad too demanding?
Try being more attentive and mindful of your sleeping patterns and how your ordinary days affect your cycles. If it does, it may just be your body letting you know that it’s unhappy.
You get frequent headaches
Disclaimer 2.0 in motion right now: this as a symptom of a bad job should only be looked at once all other medical possibilities have been eliminated.
A study conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that muscles tend to tense up to guard the body from an external anticipated injury. So if you unconsciously view your work, or a particular aspect of your work as stressful or threatening, that is how your body tends to react.
It’s almost like a physical defence mechanism that your body clenches up to guard you. Chronic tension in the neck. Shoulders or the head. Can all therefore be a consequence of this ceaseless stress that is perceived as a physical threat.
And the culminating effect of that? A pattern of frequent headaches.
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Pro tip: Start paying objective attention to what’s triggering your headaches. More often than not, you’ll be able to find definite external stimuli as your triggers.
Your body aches in general
All that response to external triggers has a direct link to frequent body aches. The chronic tension in your neck, back or shoulders, is the result of your body perceiving external stress as threatening.
When your work is at the dangerous threshold of becoming toxic, every work day can feel like a battle with everything that you need to accomplish. This constant battle evidently needs all that your body can provide, thereby sapping it dry of its resources.
Your brains flood your system with adrenaline and other stress hormones. Since your body is constantly in hyper-vigilance mode, ready to react to an unpleasant coworker or a boss.
Pro Tip: Notice when you’re approaching work with a clenched jaw. Or your shoulders hunched up over your laptop.
A clenched jaw is perhaps the body’s quickest and most noticeable response. We tend to work away on our desks without realising how long we’ve been sitting all clenched up. Ready to strike.
If you’re waking up with a sore neck, severe back ache or a difficulty in mobility, pay attention to what your body is telling you.
You fall sick more often
A constant perception of threat keeps the body in emergency mode. Which over time, reduces its ability to guard you from disease. Stress has a direct link to a weakened immune system.
So if you see yourself falling sick too often. Developing a cold frequently. Or even running an occasional temperature every now and then. It may be time to look at what got you feeling like this in the first place.
Pro Tip: Begin noticing what is making you fall sick. Once you check out all the obvious reasons, it’s time to look at your emotional health.
You have a general loss of interest in traditionally gratifying activities
The most common one being a reduced sex drive. The second being food, hunger, or general leisure.
How you spend your time reflects what you value. When you bring your work home with you, your relationships can suffer. Studies reveal that when women have to juggle professional stress on top of their ongoing personal and financial obligations, it can reduce sexual desire. For men, on the other hand, this chronic stress can result in lower testosterone production, which in turn leads to lower libido.
Pro tip: To be able to enjoy sex, food, or any other sensory gratification, there has to be a certain amount of relaxation.
A bad job can make you forget what relaxation and calmness feels and looks like.
Feeling exhausted all the time. A resistance to do anything out of the ordinary. Severe appetite changes, etc. All of these can be markers of feeling trapped. Either at a dead end job, or something bigger.
What can you do?
The first step is to acknowledge. Recognise that you are in a bad job and that may be it’s time for you to re-evaluate your plan.
The generations preceding us had learnt to internalise all this pain. We are also told that this drudgery is inescapable and even necessary. But reaffirm: you can break this cycle.
For quick short term action: take breaks. When your body goes on high-alert to defend you from unreasonable demands, you need to give it time off. When you don’t allow your body this time to recuperate, it loses out on a crucial opportunity to relax and reset itself. Thereby causing long-term damage.
Next up, it’s important to reconfigure your negative thinking. In order to break the cycle, it’s important to realise that how you think can indeed change how you feel. It’s not possible for everyone to simply switch jobs. But you can focus on that part of the situation that you can control.
So let go of the mindless rumination about what your bosses or your coworkers are thinking about you. How that presentation went or if you’ll even be considered for the next promotion.
And eventually, maybe quit. See this as the warning that you might need to get a new job or start looking elsewhere. Long hours, absence of autonomy, uncertain scheduling and economic insecurity. These can all be factors behind a toxic workplace environment that you need to leave behind, not just cope with.
All of us are collectively stepping into this brave new world of work. It’s time we begin to re-evaluate everything archaic that’s been fed into us. Archaic notions of success that value wealth over wellbeing. Quantity over quality and productivity over happiness.
It’s time we learn to give ourselves and our bodies the value that traditional work has denied it for so long now.