Is overworking really worth it?

A signpost directing work life balance

  I found an article online that quoted some health tips from me. While reading, I learned a new word: karoshi. (And there should be an accent above the "o" in that word, but Wordpress didn't have the right symbol)

According to Wikipedia, it can be translated to mean, "death by overwork" and the Japanese use it when referring to "sudden occupational death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet."


Stress and diet.

These are two things you can definitely manage.


I don't know about you, but I can think of a few people who are on my watch-list, people I know who work a lot, to the point that I'd call it overworking. How do I know what I'm looking for?

Because it used to be me.

For most of my working life, I was overtired, chronically sick, underslept and overwhelmed. I missed appointments and deadlines and had colds that became sinus infections and led to countless trips to the doctor or days working sick on my feet. I shudder to remember. I just stopped and counted--I've been sick less than 10 days in the past four years.

I know that OVERWORK CULTURE is real.

Before I became a self-employed integrative health coach, I ran on fumes. I began my professional career as a teacher at the age of 22 and, within a month of accepting my first job, came down with mono that grounded me for two months. Unbelievable. Anyone who knows or is married or partnered to a teacher knows the hours are well beyond 40+/week.  Summers are rarely free since many teachers spend those months earning supplemental income.

I was almost burned-out by the time I quit teaching at the age of 25 when I moved into working for local businesses and then multiple non-profits. The years I spent in those environments taught me very little about healthy boundaries and I perpetuated unhealthy habits around nutrition, time management and work/life balance like many of my colleagues.

For the past five years, I've coached clients from all job sectors: from startups to local companies to corporations to ministers to doulas.

I've learned that overwork is a potential threat in any environment and what makes a difference is how people approach the tasks before them and the tools they use to practice work/life balance.

When we feel especially passionate about our job or our role in our workplace, it's tempting to think that investing significant amounts of time into the work will pay off. We will get ahead. Just one more email or phone call or whatever and we will knock it all out and be able to relax "when things calm down." But this is a dangerous dangling carrot, particularly if your job or workplace is successful. Chances are things will not get to a place of stability--there are always multiple balls in the air, things to solve, cats to herd, etc.

And that's how we get to a place of overwork and unmanageable stress that reveals itself in symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain, headaches, recurrent illness and possibly worse at some point. It's something so common, Japan has a word for it. Is it really less common here or have we just not named it, yet?

It begs the question: is overworking really worth it?

Consider that your health is your best asset: for your personal AND professional life.

When you're out sick, your company suffers. When you're sick, your life suffers.

No matter how much there is to be done, you always have a choice how much you'll do.

If you're thinking this is unrealistic or impractical, all I can say is I've done this for myself and have coached hundreds of people in achieving and experiencing the same results. I can only provide the tools and cross my fingers that they practice them to the point of experiencing real change in their lives. And then, when they see that they can feel happy, healthy AND get tons of work accomplished, they really get that overworking never really necessary or worth it.


Can you relate to this? What could you do today to scale back on your workload?

What are you getting from overworking? Is it worth it?


image courtesy of this site.