I wonder if you are addicted to work. So many of us are. We live in a society that worships the overachiever.
Burning the candle at both ends and denying yourself pleasure until the work gets done is seen as honorable.
And while having a good work ethic is definitely key to living your best life, it is also important to balance your work life with a sense of plan and freedom.
One of the biggest downfalls to not balancing work and leisure is experiencing burnout. Burnout can happen in all career fields.
Burnout is exactly as it sounds…you are overworked, fatigued, and your joy of work is extinguished. This is different from secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue.
You are not immune to burnout, despite what you hope and despite what you attempt. We can all experience burnout, but what puts us at the most risk is not balancing work with other aspects of life.
Maybe you know someone who works all the time – they go to work early in the morning, stay late, come home and do more work, and works on the weekends. They may express feeling tired or may be more irritable than they used to be but on the other side, they don’t do anything about it and keep working.
Or maybe they work this much, but express a passion about it to the point they know nothing else that is happening. They are oblivious to what is truly going on around them. All of their conversations seem to revolve around work and what they are doing.
THE DANGERS OF BEING ADDICTED TO WORK
As for work life, you may think that a workaholic would be every boss and manager’s dream employee. After all, if you’re someone who’s addicted to work, you’re generally the first one to arrive, the last to leave, refuse to take vacations, and take on mountains of work.
If you work this much, not only will it impact you to the point of potential burnout, but it will affect your family and your social life. When you work this much, you still only have 24 hours in a day and other things will fall by the wayside.
Your spouse may start to feel lonely. Your kids may not trust that you’ll show up at their games or help them with homework. Your friends may stop inviting you over because you always say no. You may not go to the gym, yoga, MMA, or other activities you used to do as frequently.
Before you know it, you have spiraled into a lonely and stress-filled place. It can feel very hard to get out of this place. All you wanted was to show the boss that you can do the job. You know that nothing comes easily and you have to work for what you want.
But in the midst of all of this, you lost sight of the other important parts of life. You lost sight of friends, family, fun, and balance.
Looking around, life is all about balance. When a tree gets too much or too little water it can get diseases or die off. The ocean tides will ebb and flow creating a natural balance in the ocean. We have sunlight at which time we can see well to do what we need, and moonlight at which time it is dark enough to power down and rest. Natural selection helps to prevent overpopulation in the animal world if left undisturbed.
But us humans, free thinkers, intelligent beings, forget about balance at times. We lose sight of the long term goal for the sake of the short term rewards. We work ourselves to death and it still isn’t enough.
The ironic thing is, workaholics are often not seen as team players, they don’t frequently delegate, and often can’t handle their workload efficiently. So whereas on the surface, being a workaholic may seem like not such a bad thing, it is actually not the case.
Furthermore, because these individuals refuse to take time off of work, they can become sick. Workaholics experience far more work-related stress, anger, anxiety and depression, which can result in physical symptoms like headaches, migraines, GI upset and insomnia.
It is well known that stress causes all sorts of physical ailments. Due to the workaholic’s nature of not powering down, feeling pressure to get everything done, and do it quickly and right, and inability to delegate, they end up feeling a lot of stress.
People wear stress differently. Just because you don’t see the person as stressed, doesn’t mean their insides aren’t feeling it. There are a great number of people that “seem” to handle stress very well when in fact they can’t handle it at all.
ARE YOU A WORKAHOLIC?
Are you wondering whether you are a workaholic? Here are 10 signs you may be addicted to working:
- You work over 50 hours each week
A normal work week is 40 hours. If you work 50 or 60 or more in a week randomly because you need to get a project done, that is not the same as consistently working over 40 hours per week.
Check yourself; ask yourself why you are working 10 hour days instead of 8 hour days. Do you tell yourself “I have to finish this or else…” Do you worry about your performance review? Do you get lost in your day and not realize the time?
- You feel the need to be constantly busy
If you are anxious when you are sitting still with the thought that you “should” be doing something, this is a sign that you could be a workaholic. Not that you are, but it is an indication of possibility.
Allow yourself to feel the discomfort in relaxation. Own it; acknowledge it. Breathe through it. You will be ok. You are ok. Doing more now does not mean it will be done better or even faster. If you are stressed, you are not working optimally/most efficiently. Allow yourself to separate from work so when you return, you will be able to focus better.
- You have trouble relaxing and/or having fun when not working
When all your thoughts are on work, ensuring everything is done, and worrying about what isn’t done, this is not a good sign.
When we try to balance life and work, we cannot balance while still thinking about something else. Practice mindfulness skills to distract from work-related thoughts. Be in the moment; nothing will change at work because you’re thinking about it now at the beach.
- You are a perfectionist
I don’t know one workaholic who is not also a perfectionist. They may be out there, but I don’t know any. One of the reasons people are workaholics is because they need something to be done perfectly. Good enough isn’t good enough.
Being a perfectionist can be very stressful. Especially when you don’t have control over every piece of something. This is where workaholics often struggle with delegation. It may not be done “right” if someone else does it.
Very little in this world IS perfect. Even in nature, there are flaws in the trees and animals. Technology runs risk of human error and breaking down over time. Even if something is perfect now, it may not be perfect five minutes from now.
- Writing to-do lists is fun for you
This goes along with always needing to be busy. If you could just give yourself time to relax, you wouldn’t enjoy writing that to-do list as much. It would seem more like a chore. Things that “have to” get done when all you want is to relax.
If you must write to-do lists, add into those to-do lists “relaxation” “beach” “time with family” etc. Notice and accept the anxiety that may come with that. Accept it. Own it. Then do these things that are put on your to-do list just like you would the other household chores on your to-do list.
- Your loved ones complain about how much you work
Now it’s not just impacting you anymore. It has started to impact your family. They don’t see you as much. They don’t get to spend time with you like they want. You are missing your children growing up. You are missing time spent with your spouse.
Your spouse didn’t marry you to be alone while you work 50-80 hours per week. Your children want to please you and spend time with you. They can’t do either if you don’t see what they’re doing.
- You’re often caught not listening or paying attention to conversations because you’re focused on work
Mindful or Mind full. That is the question. If you are so focused on what has to be done, you can’t focus on anything else. Your mind is full. You are mind full. This is not what we mean by being mindful.
When you’re home, you’re home. Be mindful – be in the moment. Be here. Now. When you’re at work, be mindful. Be here. Now.
- You’ve often been called a “control freak”
This goes along with the perfectionism. If everything has to be perfect, you can’t delegate. If you can’t delegate, you might be considered a control freak.
Does letting go of this control scare you? Does the thought of giving up any control make you just a bit anxious? Ask yourself why? Where does this need to be in control of everything come from? What is the worst that will happen if I give up control over this?
- You are neglecting other aspects of your life, like attending to your child’s play or music recital.
This frequently goes along with your loved ones complaining about how much you work. But think about it…we have 24 hours in a day. If you spend 15 hours working at the office, factor in sleep, travel time to and from the office, meals, and other “to-do’s” where is the time to do the “wants”? Where’s the time to watch your children grow?
If you took one hour additional hour per week to spend with your family (preferably all at once and not broken up over the week), how would that change your family? How different would you feel? What happened at work because you did one hour less work per week? Think about these questions.
- You become highly stressed when you are forced to turn off your cell phone or other digital devices
Ok this one can be workaholism or not. We live in a world where we are plugged in all the time. Even for people who are not addicted to work, we struggle with turning off the cell phone or other digital devices.
However, when you ask yourself, “What is making me anxious about turning this off” listen to the answer. If it is about work, this could be an indication of workaholism.
WORKAHOLISM IS A REAL DISEASE
Workaholism is an actual disease like alcoholism that tends to be passed down from parent to child. Work addicts use work as a means to cope with emotional discomfort and feelings of inadequacy.
Because there is a real, intense need for work as a distraction, other areas of their life tend to suffer. They work more, stress more, work more. And the cycle goes on and on.
Workaholics can benefit greatly from cognitive behavioral therapy where they can learn coping strategies that allow them to feel better and work less.
Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC specializes in helping professionals get out of burnout and compassion fatigue. You know this has started impacting your life in more than one way and you know it is time to do something about it. I have helped many people, like you, get their lives back from the grips of burnout.
You are not alone and you are not crazy. Call me today for a free consultation. I look forward to talking with you and helping you along your journey. I can be reached at 941-462-4807.