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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Coping with work pressure: do you 'power on' when you really need time off?

This week in the press, Royal watchers have been following reports that the Princess of Wales intends to 'work from bed' while recovering from surgery. This has ignited discussion about the role of rest and leisure, and its importance in allowing us to restore ourselves from the demands and pressures of working life.  Especially when we are recovering from illness or injury. I spoke to Metro all about this topic. Click here to read the full article, and read on to hear what I had to say.

If we ‘power on’ through work when we should really be taking time off, it’s likely to make us feel more stressed and overwhelmed, which can lead to burnout.  This can leave us feeling anxious or depressed.  We might also harbour anger or resentment about the demands of our workplace, which can worsen our emotional wellbeing.  This can also lead to the physical manifestations of our emotional state, for example panic attacks, outbursts of anger, difficulty sleeping.  

It’s also worth considering what it means if we are the kind of person who ‘powers on’ when we should be taking time off.  Maybe we feel as if we have no choice, due to financial pressure or the demands of our manager.  But it might also indicate deeper emotional concerns.  It suggests a low sense of self-esteem or confidence, and a desire to put other people’s needs before our own.  

What impact does it have on the wider team if senior colleagues don't put their health first? Throughout life, we learn how to behave from those around us, and this isn’t any different in the workplace.  If someone senior is not putting their health first, and 'powering on when they really need time off, then this sends a set of implicit cues that they expect their team to do the same.  That productivity at work is more important than our own individual wellbeing.  This can lead to a sense of competition among colleagues, to appear to be the most productive or the most present, in order to achieve the approval of the senior members of staff.  

Tips for coping with the expectation to be 'always on'. Over the past few years, developments in technology and the way that we work have blurred the boundaries between work and home, between work and leisure.  This can leave us feeling as if there’s an expectation that we should be ‘powering on’, even when we really need time off.  This might be an explicit expectation, laid out within our workplace.  Or an implicit expectation, from a society that values productivity, achievement, people-pleasing and perfectionism.  

Some tips to help you to give yourself permission to take time out:

  • Remember the restorative impact of rest.  If you’re putting yourself under pressure to be productive, you might find that you’re more productive if you give yourself a break.  This breaks the cycle of stress and overwhelm, and enables us to think more clearly and creatively.  

  • Consider the example that you are setting.  If you want your colleagues to consider their wellbeing, then they need to be able to exercise healthy boundaries. This means that you should role-model healthy boundaries in the workplace, even if it runs counter to your instincts.  

  • Figure out where the pressure is coming from.  Do you really need to be ‘always on’?  Or are you trying to avoid something else?  Trying to prove something to yourself?  Bowing to the perceived judgement of other people, or your own powerful inner critic?  If you can connect with what’s going on, then it will help you to put yourself first.  

  • Make yourself accountable to others.  If you know that you struggle to switch off, then share your intentions with other people.  That way, they can intervene if they spot the signs that you’re putting yourself under too much pressure.  It also helps to manage their expectations of what you might deliver when you’re not at work.  

  • Turn technology to your advantage.  Advances in technology have certainly made it harder for us to switch off.  But it does offer some solutions.  Use apps and features to incorporate time boundaries into your day and allow yourself some rest time.  

Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves, and why they feel the way that they do. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

do you 'power on' when you really need time off?

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