Has worrying about work taken over your life? 6 signs that you might have work separation anxiety

Has worrying about work taken over your life? 6 signs that you might have work separation anxiety

Work is an important aspect of many people’s lives, forming part of their identity as well as being their livelihood.

While liking your job and being conscientious are generally positive things however, health experts warn that some people are letting work take over their lives too much, which can have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing.

Jenni Wilson, corporate director at Nuffield Health points out that while some attachment to your work is normal: “If we start to define ourselves completely by our job, we can find ourselves working non-stop without taking time off to reboot our bodies.”

Wilson believes this has led to increasing numbers of people suffering from a condition dubbed ‘work separation anxiety’ – when employees are so consumed by work, they experience distress and fear when away from a professional environment.

We talked to Wilson about how to spot some of the key signs of work separation anxiety, and how to deal with it…

1. You worry about work non-stop

From the moment you wake up, to when you go to sleep at night, your job is all you think about. And when you’re away from work, you’re constantly thinking about what you could be getting done, instead of taking time to relax.

2. You avoid calling in sick

Even when you feel like you’re at death’s door, there’s no way you’ll call in sick. However, not only is there the risk you’ll make other people ill, coming into work when unwell can decrease productivity levels by at least a third, US researchers have found.

3. You’re afraid to delegate

You find delegating tasks difficult. It doesn’t matter if you’re passing work onto a high-performing team member or even to someone senior. The thought of not having complete control fills you with dread.

4. You hate taking annual leave

You’ll do whatever you can to avoid taking a holiday. You frequently push plans back or cancel leave last-minute because you feel there’s too much to get done. When you do take annual leave, you find you’re still answering emails and catching up on tasks. You may even plan leave in order to catch up with work – this is known as ‘leavism’.

5. You constantly check emails

You always carry your work phone or laptop around with you. You’re permanently logged into your inbox and check emails compulsively, until late at night.

6. Your anxiety levels are high

Overworking, not getting enough sleep and constant stress can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. You might find yourself feeling increasingly nervous, restless or tense and experiencing a growing sense of panic, which can continue to build over time. You may experience physical symptoms like dizziness, tiredness, headaches, sweating and shortness of breath too.

How to deal with it

1. Speak to your manager

The first step is to evaluate your work environment. If you feel there are individual factors, like unreasonable deadlines, unmanageable workload or a company culture which doesn’t encourage taking time off, make a list of these issues and schedule time to speak to a manager to address them.

2. Change the culture

Talk to your manager about what’s going on (iStock/PA)
Talk to your manager about what’s going on (iStock/PA)

Once you’ve had the initial conversation with your boss or manager, chat about ways your company could encourage a more open dialogue around stress and company workloads. Consider offering emotional literacy training, which ensures staff have a common language to discuss distress and worries.

3. Know your rights

If you find your boss less than sympathetic, be aware of the specific regulations your company should adhere to. If you think these aren’t being met, it might be time to speak to HR. Be aware that the European Court of Justice has just ruled that employers must take steps to ensure their staff aren’t exceeding the 48-hour maximum working week and are taking adequate rest breaks.

4. Be firm about your downtime

It may take some effort and a shift of mindset but prioritising downtime and life beyond work is vital for wellbeing, contentment and productivity (iStock/PA)
It may take some effort and a shift of mindset but prioritising downtime and life beyond work is vital for wellbeing, contentment and productivity (iStock/PA)

Trust your colleagues to do the jobs they’re trained to do and take advantage of time away from the office. Learning to turn off worries requires a concentrated effort, but certain practical and psychological techniques can help. Take up hobbies, catch up with friends, and learn to relax with techniques like meditation and mindfulness.

5. Use workplace support

If you think your mental health is being seriously affected, make use of your work’s wellbeing offerings. Many businesses provide support for stress and personal problems through employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which offer confidential contact with experts, such as counsellors, who can support individuals with work-related problems and other issues that may be having an impact.

- Press Association

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