We have all heard the term workaholic floating around, but what does it actually mean to be a workaholic? I am not talking about being a driven go-getter who is crushing all of their professional goals. I am talking about the person whose life revolves around their work.
Workaholism is an addiction that can seriously impact your personal and professional life. The American Psychological Association defines workaholism as the compulsive need to work and do so to an excessive degree.
A workaholic is someone who feels a compulsion to, or an irresistible urge to work whether they want to or not. It’s more about your personal work habits and motivations.
Do any of the following sound familiar:
You spend more time at work than anywhere else. If you spend most of your time working, and say no to things such as important events, sleep, errands, or time with your family so you can get work done?
You bring work home. With the access of our work emails and constant communication on the phone, this is easy to do.
You work to avoid unpleasant feelings. A lot of times when speaking with clients I find that many clients will say, “I work so that I don’t have to deal with my thoughts.” The truth is if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or any other unresolved conflicts they will not solve your problems. It’s better to spend time with yourself and learn why you are feeling the way you may be feeling. Therapy is a great way to do this. (Fear of failure may be another feeling you are trying to avoid. This could be from comparing yourself to others, or being a perfectionist and working to prove yourself and your worth to others.
You work to feel positive feelings. One of the most dangerous parts of being a workaholic is the reward you get from doing so. The affirmations “she is a hard worker, she is great at what she does, or she is a team player'' provide some temporary satisfaction, but forming this people pleaser pattern can leave you feeling resentful and burned out.
You can’t remember the last time you took a break. This isn’t just speaking of a vacation. When was the last time you took a lunch break? Used PTO? Took a mental health day? Do you struggle with the idea of taking off just to be, even if it’s just to sit home?
You get stressed when you aren’t working. When you try to take a break from work, do you find yourself feeling stressed thinking about all the unfinished tasks waiting for you when you return? These thoughts make you feel stressed and the only way to relieve that stress is to feel like you are doing something productive?
Ways to overcome workaholism
Acknowledge and be committed to fixing the program. Acknowledgement fuels your motivation to make the commitment to change. Affirm and visualize the life you see for yourself. What does work life look like? How does it feel? How do you look walking in it?
Talk to your supervisor if you are having difficulty with your work responsibilities. A good boss will not want you to feel overwhelmed and will want you to be as productive as possible. This is fear for many, but learning to advocate for yourself is key to seeing some type of change.
Practice setting boundaries. This will be difficult, but with practice it gets easier over time. Practice getting to and leaving work on time. Not checking your work emails or messages outside of work hours. Not doing work related things over the weekend. An accountability partner is great in the boundary department. Putting your phone on do not disturb at a certain hour is a great tip as well. If you work from home, this can be quite the challenge. Practice working in a certain area of your home so you don’t blur the line betweens between work time and personal time. You will have to practice shutting down your computer or work devices at the end work time as well.
Rest intentionally. Redefine what rest looks like for you. Schedule time in your daily calendar to rest. Rest can look however you need it to. Take half days and do nothing. Take yourself to the spa. Sit on your couch and practice doing nothing. Plan some time with family and friends. Plan a staycation in the city. Take a solo trip. Sometimes getting outside of your home or office area will force you to disconnect.
Practice holistic wellness. Take care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit. Consider the following areas of self-care as you think about total wellness.
6. Seek professional help. Working with a therapist or mental health professional may be beneficial if you feel that navigating workaholism is requiring more work that you feel equipped to do on your own. A therapist can help you walk through why you are struggling, and help you process any difficult emotions that you are trying to avoid by working.