# Coping with exhaustion

This is a health related question. I plan to increase my hours drastically to about 65-80 hrs a week. I need to accomplish my goals, so reduction in work is not negotiable. This will go on for a very long time.

Given this, are there stress reducers that can completely negate the negative health effects? Have there been studies conducted on specific remedies for potential overwork? Would being muscular and fit help? Eating well? Etc.

In particular, I'm curious about exercise.

Have there been studies conducted on a random sample of people who are already highly fit who also work 80 hr weeks? Only a study like this can lead to good inferences on the effect of exercise on stress reduction

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## Answers and Replies

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Henryk
Gold Member
Are you aware that study after study showed that working longer hours is fine only for short term? After a few weeks of working for 60 hrs a week your total output becomes LESS than working 40 hrs a week. Think again about the purpose of your plan to work hours. Your sure outcome is stress and health problem and in the end you will accomplish less than working regular hours.

russ_watters, Ryan_m_b and Tom.G
Are you aware that study after study showed that working longer hours is fine only for short term? After a few weeks of working for 60 hrs a week your total output becomes LESS than working 40 hrs a week. Think again about the purpose of your plan to work hours. Your sure outcome is stress and health problem and in the end you will accomplish less than working regular hours.
What about guys like Paul Erdos?

verty
Homework Helper
This is a health related question. I plan to increase my hours drastically to about 65-80 hrs a week. I need to accomplish my goals...
You want steroids for the brain, yes? You want to mess with your most important and sensitive organ, the one most protected by nature? Look how safe the brain is, it has a skull to protect it, arms to defend it, a blood-brain barrier to regulate the environment. Apart from headaches, most people don't notice it. But boxers get brain damage, soccer players can be prone to that as well. It doesn't take a lot to throw things out of whack.

I think I've made my point. You are best advised not to tinker and find the number of hours sleep you need. For me, it's 9 hours.

Stephen Tashi
What about guys like Paul Erdos?
You haven't revealed what kind of work you will do for 65-80 hours a week.

The work of Paul Erdos was thinking about technical mathematical concepts. By contrast, most of your posts on the forum don't get into technical details. So it isn't clear to the casual observer how the example of Paul Erdos would be relevant to whatever you're doing.

Ryan_m_b
I plan to increase my hours drastically to about 65-80 hrs a week.
I would say unless it is (at least partially) some 'recreational' work, it would be a direct and fast road to burnout.

What about guys like Paul Erdos?
Do you feel like Paul Erdos?

You haven't revealed what kind of work you will do for 65-80 hours a week.

The work of Paul Erdos was thinking about technical mathematical concepts. By contrast, most of your posts on the forum don't get into technical details. So it isn't clear to the casual observer how the example of Paul Erdos would be relevant to whatever you're doing.
I'll be doing a lot of talking since I'm doing education for a living. So other than possible wear and tear on my vocal cords, no real strain. But I'm also trying to break into data science, so a lot of programming practice and things like kaggle competitions. Needs to be full time for both work and interview prep since I need to make money and build strong skills in coding at the same time. So I necessarily need to do double the work.

I'm not exactly digging ditches here. Mental marathons should be much easier to run. is it not?

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I would say unless it is (at least partially) some 'recreational' work, it would be a direct and fast road to burnout.

Do you feel like Paul Erdos?
Just some coding and stats. Not backbreaking work by any means.

You want steroids for the brain, yes? You want to mess with your most important and sensitive organ, the one most protected by nature? Look how safe the brain is, it has a skull to protect it, arms to defend it, a blood-brain barrier to regulate the environment. Apart from headaches, most people don't notice it. But boxers get brain damage, soccer players can be prone to that as well. It doesn't take a lot to throw things out of whack.

I think I've made my point. You are best advised not to tinker and find the number of hours sleep you need. For me, it's 9 hours.
If only there were steroids for the brain. I wish such a nice shortcut existed. I wouldn't mind paying the price so only as price isn't decreased performance over the long run.

But nothing works like that for the brain really. Stimulants like caffeine will just give a temp boost with a risk of crash. It doesn't even make people smarter/ more creative, which is where it really counts for better performance.

Mental marathons should be much easier to run. is it not?
Definitely not.

Teaching, coding, learning in 80hrs a week - maybe for a month or two, but no longer if you take all that seriously. I think you should cut some corners.

russ_watters and Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
But nothing works like that for the brain really. Stimulants like caffeine will just give a temp boost with a risk of crash. It doesn't even make people smarter/ more creative, which is where it really counts for better performance.
You need to work smarter, not more. Pushing 60+ hours of hard mental work will lead to a decrease in productivity along with a potential host of mental health problems. In recent years this has become more of a talked about issue in various fields, such as the video game industry where it's expected that for months ahead of release of a game this type of workload is expected (leading to significant staff burnout and turnover).

If you're going to strain yourself at the very least figure out a very good metric by which to evaluate your progress and health. In particular bring other people into it. See your doctor, request evaluations from supervisors/peers/clients etc.

berkeman and Tom.G
George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
What about guys like Paul Erdos?
You are not Paul Edos. Also, Paul Edos regularly took speed. From

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erdős

":After 1971 he also took, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. Erdős won the bet, but complained that during his abstinence, mathematics had been set back by a month: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine use." berkeman You are not Paul Edos. Also, Paul Edos regularly took speed. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erdős ":After 1971 he also took, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him$500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. Erdős won the bet, but complained that during his abstinence, mathematics had been set back by a month: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine use."
Not just Paul Erdos, Elon Musk too.

You need to work smarter, not more. Pushing 60+ hours of hard mental work will lead to a decrease in productivity along with a potential host of mental health problems. In recent years this has become more of a talked about issue in various fields, such as the video game industry where it's expected that for months ahead of release of a game this type of workload is expected (leading to significant staff burnout and turnover).

If you're going to strain yourself at the very least figure out a very good metric by which to evaluate your progress and health. In particular bring other people into it. See your doctor, request evaluations from supervisors/peers/clients etc.
Yes, I will have to think of a good metric. My brother is able to put in 12 hour days in a lab. Other family members work crazy hours doing business. Based off that alone, I can assume I'm on the upper end of the distribution in terms of natural mental endurance. Worse case scenario, I burn out and have to scale back. But its worth figuring out my limits.

I mean, if I manage to sleep 8 hours per day, then I don't see the issue with working rest of the time so long as I also tag on some exercise.

Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Yes, I will have to think of a good metric. My brother is able to put in 12 hour days in a lab. Other family members work crazy hours doing business. Based off that alone, I can assume I'm on the upper end of the distribution in terms of natural mental endurance. Worse case scenario, I burn out and have to scale back. But its worth figuring out my limits.
I would not draw that conclusion from such spurious anecdotes. Can you find any study that suggests ability to cope with long hours of work is associated with genetics, rather than the (much more likely) personal/social factors around said work?

I mean, if I manage to sleep 8 hours per day, then I don't see the issue with working rest of the time so long as I also tag on some exercise.
Sounds like you’ve completely ignored anything said about work productivity being more than just to clock in/clock out time.

Best of luck, doesn’t seem like you were genuinely asking for advice anyway so much as validation for your life choices.

I would not draw that conclusion from such spurious anecdotes. Can you find any study that suggests ability to cope with long hours of work is associated with genetics, rather than the (much more likely) personal/social factors around said work?

Sounds like you’ve completely ignored anything said about work productivity being more than just to clock in/clock out time.

Best of luck, doesn’t seem like you were genuinely asking for advice anyway so much as validation for your life choices.
So with the right social factors, I can make it work? I'm curious about this. I didn't find any studies on genetics. I don't even know it was well researched. There is research regarding burnout from overwork, but they didn't put the variance. I need to know the variance. (granted, these were news articles)

Not so much about validation. It just seems to me that its about energy input/output. I apologize if I didn't understand you correctly.

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Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Not so much about validation. It just seems to me that its about energy input/output.
We aren't simple machines. This topic is so much more complicated than energy input/output. 'Energy' isn't even defined well when you talk about people unless you're talking about chemistry and physics at the cellular/sub-cellular level.

We aren't simple machines. This topic is so much more complicated than energy input/output. 'Energy' isn't even defined well when you talk about people unless you're talking about chemistry and physics at the cellular/sub-cellular level.
Makes sense. My background is in applied mathematics not biology nor medicine. Well I go to the gym and everything is in terms of energy input and output. Meals, time spent at gym, how many sets, calories in, calories out etc. It seems to be a mistake applying this generally.

Tom.G
Hope this doesn't come too close to 'personal theory', it is based on observations from a sample of two and minimal online search.

Mentally productive 'work hours' seems inversly proportional to age from about 24 years and up; modified by difficulty and personal interest.
Also seemingly in the mix is epinephrine levels, overall general health, and the amount of time needed for chemical clean-up of the brain during sleep, all being highly personal variables. Physical and psychological stress levels also decrease both productivity and sustainability. A quick Google search indicates 7-9Hrs is 'typical', but a few people get away with 5+Hrs. In general it seems wisest not to curtail sleep, but to cut other activities; just watch out for undesirable psychological effects.

I have recently read a report somewhere that 'older' people, when they walk regularly, have increased vasculature in their thigh muscles and have improved their cognitive ability.

DennisN
2020 Award
This is a health related question. I plan to increase my hours drastically to about 65-80 hrs a week. I need to accomplish my goals, so reduction in work is not negotiable.
I have done a similar thing a long time ago, and I did it for a couple of months. After that, I was incredibly exhausted. I would not repeat that today.
This will go on for a very long time..
Then you may be putting your health at risk. For instance, there is something called occupational burnout.

I have done a similar thing a long time ago, and I did it for a couple of months. After that, I was incredibly exhausted. I would not repeat that today.

Then you may be putting your health at risk. For instance, there is something called occupational burnout.

So far so good. I'll just step back when I start getting some health problems. Am I correct in assuming that its more probable that some potential negative signs show up before the serious effects do?

Drakkith
Staff Emeritus