chained

According to the Unite Health and Safety Unit, those who work more than 48 hours per week are doubling their risk of serious heart conditions compared with those working 40 hours or less.

We all have those times when it seems like all we do is work. But how do you know when you're working too hard? If any of the below sound familiar, it might be time to assess your work-life balance.

1. Dropping the ball

You've made a stupid mistake and people want answers. When your brain tries to focus on a hundred things at once, it gets overloaded and disorganised. It's no good being at work if you're not doing your job properly. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can have a signifcant negative effect on memory*. Slow down. Delegate. You don't want a reputation for being unreliable.

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2. Losing your temper

That woman in front of you is taking far too long; doesn't she know you're in a hurry? You asked that person to do one simple thing and...

Stop and take a deep breath. If you're getting irate at mundane things like getting stuck in a slow moving queue, or you're doing something yourself because you haven't got the time to correct it if it's wrong, the worst thing you can do is attack everyone else for it. Getting angry isn't going to help - it just makes you look bad.

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3. You've fallen off the face of the planet

Your voicemail is full, your Facebook wall consists almost entirely of 'where are you?' posts. You can't remember when you last spoke to your mum and you keep meaning to text your best friend back but you haven't got round to it. Oh, and you completely forgot about that birthday drinks thing last week. Schedule some time to give a friend a call, have a vent and find out what's going on in their life as well. You'll feel better for it.

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4. You look like hell

There's no easy way to say it. You've got more bags than Terminal 5, your belt hasn't got enough holes in it any more, and your skin tone is more 'wet clay' than 'alabaster'. And how long have you had that cold, by the way?

When your body is deprived of sleep, rest and proper nutrition, it'll turn to its muscle and fat reserves for energy. Your immune system is impaired and your body becomes susceptible to minor bacteria and viruses. Fruit is great food on the go and it'll give your system a much needed vitamin boost. But don't use it to replace proper meals!

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5. The microwave has become your best friend

Stopping at the petrol station to grab a lasagne from the chiller cabinet is no a substitute for a decent meal. Ordering mushy peas with your fish and chips doesn't count towards your five a day either.

If you're asking your body to perform beyond its normal capacity, you need to give it some proper food - not the type that comes in a plastic tray with a foil lid. An omelette with a generous helping of salad is nutritious and low in saturated fat - and it's ready in under ten minutes.

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6. Exhausted but can't sleep

You're drinking coffee or tea to get you through the day because your body is crying out for sleep, so what happens when you finally get to bed? You're wide awake. Caffeine has a half life of roughly four to six hours. That well-deserved cuppa you have when you get home? It's still in your system when you go to bed - disrupting what little sleep you're getting. Switch to decaf or fruit juices with natural, healthy sugars towards bedtime.

Sustained high adrenaline levels do nothing for stress, heart rate or general health. Put aside some time to do absolutely nothing. Have a long bath with a good book so you can wind down.

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7. You're in competition with yourself

You're boasting about how many hours you've done this week already. You scoff at friends who say they're tired and you're secretly quite proud that you're surviving on about four hours of sleep per night. It's almost become a compulsion to work longer and longer hours or more shifts. It's the same buzz that exercise addicts get from pushing their bodies to the limit.

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In a nutshell

Workers in hospitality are passionate about their jobs and the industry. If you work in this sector, you may be at risk of a work-life imbalance as your job can sometimes involve long hours. Working shifts also means you may not socialise when your friends do, so you could be missing out on vital relaxation time.

*Report by Washington University School of Medicine, June 1999

Further links:

- Expert advice on how to restore your work-life balance
- How your employer can help with your work-life balance
- Shift worker? Caterer.com members share their top tips for life on a shift pattern

- Back to Life at work

- Search for
hospitality jobs

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