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Here’s a relaxing picture of Playa Bonita in the Dominican Republic while you read about overworking. #NoFilter || Photo credit: Nicki Bruckmann


 

“I worked 80 hours last week. I’ve been home only 3 days this entire month, and I get 3 hours of sleep a night.” Sound familiar? I hope not, but for some it may be their work-life balance reality.

We live in a society where going harder, longer, and faster is rewarded. We’re praised by our superiors when we do. We even award ourselves when we sacrifice to go countless extra miles. We bask in being a multi-tasking, world conquering, Bad Ass. I am woman hear me roar!

This is all fine and dandy. I love feeling like a bad ass with everything I do. Who doesn’t? We feel empowered and powerful. We’re kicking ass and taking names. But at what expense? At what point are we sacrificing a lot for a little? Where’s that point of diminishing returns? And, more importantly, what’s it costing us?

 

It Messes up your Sleep

We all know it’s suggested to get 8 hours of sleep each night. Raise your hand if you purposefully get those full 8 hours. Hmmm… Do I see hands? Well, no, but if I was present I’m sure it would be crickets.

We sleep less when overworked. Why? Well, because we’re working, or thinking about working, or trying to wind down from working, or squeezing in time with our loved ones between working, or our brains our fried with images of our computer screen and social media feed from working.

Your lack of sleep leads to a sleep debt. Sleep debt is overdrawing from the sleep bank. You, chickie, just got hit with an overdraft charge. The nasty fee: It can have negative effects on your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for your learning, memory, and emotions. Folks with depression show a reduction in size of the hippocampus.

Takeaway: Don’t shrink your hippocampus! Just as you would for biceps and quads, make gains for your brain. And, let’s not forget the usual suspects. Long term sleep deprivation raises the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Before you go bragging that you only need 5 hours of sleep to function, a study found that only 1-3% of us are actually “Short sleepers,” those lucky few who are always uppity and ambitious day in and day out on just mere hours of shut eye. So for the rest of you claiming you only need a few hours of sleep, you’re only propelling yourself into a chronic sleep deprived state.

 

It Messes up your Good Habits

You know, those habits that we practice to prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The pie is only so big. There is no baking a bigger pie to fit more time into the day. You only get 24 hours. If working is gluttonously slicing off a bigger piece of that pie, then exercise, meal prep, and socializing is left with the crumbs.

But wait, I’ll just wake up at 4am to squeeze in a run. Really? Did you read the section above? Let’s talk more about this! Science (yes, science!) shows that when we’re sleepy, we make bad food decisions. But do we really need science to tell us this? Nope. Anything edible within in the vicinity goes into our mouths when we’re exhausted. We don’t feel like cooking. Calories are calories. I’ll burn it off later. No biggie. Until, this becomes the norm. Your new norm is an unhealthy addiction to sugar and fast food. Tootle-loo to the healthy habits and the six pack abs that you’re waking up to mold at 4am.

 

It Messes up your Heart

Not like that boy that got away, but in the long-term (or not so long term if it shortens your life span) kind of way. More science! A study found that those who worked 3 or more hours longer than a standard 7 hour work day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than those who did not work overtime.

Why? They proposed a multitude of fascinating possibilities: 1. Working O/T is related to Type A personalities. You know those people who are naturally aggressive, competitive, time-conscious, and tense. 2. See “F’s up your Sleep” 3. High Blood pressure related to work place stress. 4. Working too much to squeeze in time for the ol’ doctor for regular check ups or when you’re actually ill.

Do yourself a favor and leave the heart breaks to the boys.

 

It Messes up your Sobriety

“I need a drink.” How many times have you said this today? Yep, when we’re stressed we turn to booze. Work hard. Play Hard. But how hard are we working, before we play too hard?

Based on a study (YES! More science!) of over 330,000 people the magic number was 49+ hours per week. Those working between 49-54 hours were 13% more likely to engage in risky drinking behavior (Not necessarily the kind where you make really poor, but hilarious decisions after a few cocktails. That engagement rate is about 100%). This was true regardless of gender, region, or socioeconomic group. Definition of Heavy drinking: Ladies we’re looking at 14 per week and 21 for the men.

Alcoholism is bad. It leads to a whole schlew of health problems that can escalate quickly and become permanent. It’s ugly. Don’t go there. Enjoy your alcohol, but in moderation with girlfriends preferably in Cabarete by way of a fresh Mojito at Casa Mami after an exhausting day of adventuring. (What? I can’t squeeze in an Explorer Chick plug?)

 

It Messes up your Output

More input does not necessarily mean more output. Diminishing returns, folks. The one exception is if you have a critical deadline to meet. You have a goal and the extra hours can be productive. Yet, don’t have pressing projects weekly.

This time crunch is only beneficial briefly. Instead, your extra hours, let’s say 50% more hours, only generates 25-30% more production. Is it worth it? Refer to all of the above! Sara Robbins explained that our most productive hours are between hours 2-6 of working. It’s all downhill from there culminating in full exhaustion between hours 10-12. Plan accordingly.

 

It Messes up your Quality of Work

Mistakes! Have you ever reread an email or text and thought WTH is a “cobtact” or some other nonsensical gibberish? Don’t lie. I know you have. Depending on your work place, mistakes can be deadly both for you and your career.

 

It Messes up the Bigger Picture

Can you see the forest through the trees? Not if you’re overworked. Nope. You’re just seeing a bunch of moss and sticks while getting pooped on by the birds nesting in the canopy above. You lose FOCUS! According to more science, we need little breaks to recharge, replenish, and refuel. The time away from our projects lets our minds wander, the ideas flow, and projects just marinade in juicy goodness.

 

There you have it. Would I march into my bosses office right now and throw this blog down onto his desk? Maybe, not. Would I share it with ALL of my co-workers and friends? Yes! {Shameless Explorer Chick plug – Share links are below! 😜 }.

All kidding aside, take an inventory of how much you are working and how it has affected you mentally and physically. Then start making changes. Set a routine for sleep and exercise. Keep your smart phone in a different room for a few hours to completely disconnect. I know this is hard, but trust me, you’re phone won’t be lonely or have it’s feelings hurt. It too deserves a break.

Spend time on the weekends or your time off away from technology. I’m super guilty of this. It’s so easy to check email and social media on-the-go with our phones, but what are you really achieving? Have the discipline to avoid it. Yes, sounds crazy. Completely avoid it, so you can return to your work bright eyed and bushy tailed.

I spent an entire weekend running around the mountains in Virginia with close to zero work activity. Guess what happened? That following week was insanely productive. I was like an animal checking off my To-Do list and tackling projects all spurred by a rekindled sense of creativity.

Don’t feel guilty when you leave it behind. Trust me. We integrate rest days in our fitness routines. What happens during rest days? Our muscles rebuild and we become stronger. Same philosophy, but for our powerhouse brains. Don’t neglect rest day.

I want to know how do you find balance? What are your hacks to keeping your work under wraps? Did I miss an evil of overworking?

Happy Exploring!

~Nicki


Overworked and can’t find the time to plan your trip? Join Explorer Chick on one of our upcoming Adventures! We do all of the planning and research. We’re with you during your trip as your Vacation Sherpa. You simply book and show up. Easy and convenient adventuring!


 

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