Workaholism: The "Acceptable" Addiction
A Problem in Disguise
Psychologist Bryan Robinson once said that work addiction is the "best-dressed mental health problem." It's one addiction that society tends to value because, from the outside, it masquerades as hard work and high performance.
Suffering from Workaholism
Because there is no single standard definition of a "workaholic," estimates of its prevalence vary. By some estimates, as much as 30 percent of the population suffers. And "suffers" is completely accurate. The addiction's nasty side effects include sleep disorders, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, weight gain, crushing fatigue, and forgetfulness. Recurrent adrenaline dumps decrease the body's ability to remove cholesterol and increases plaque deposits in arteries.
- Acknowledge the problem. Assess yourself and your work habits honestly. Is it passion that's driving you to work harder and longer? Or is fear? Loneliness? Guilt? Are there underlying issues with which you need to contend?
- Give up guilt. Guilt is a major workaholism culprit. Author, speaker, coach and recovering workaholic Caroline Dowd-Higgins says, "I have finally learned that guilt is a useless emotion, so I have given it up for good. I thought I would be tempted to feel guilty about my new non-workaholic mindset, but I am not giving guilt any airtime." Easier said than done for many folks, but reminding yourself that you do not need to feel guilty for balancing work and life is helpful.
- Set healthy priorities. Priorities change over the course of our lives. At some points, work may be the biggest piece of the pie as we establish our careers or build a business. Then, maybe our children take over as the focus as they grow. What are your priorities now? The Life Wheel is an easy-to-use tool that can help you narrow in on them so you can devote your time, energy, and resources to the most critical.
- Establish boundaries. Learn to use "no" wisely. No, I can't take another project right now. No, I am not able to attend that event. And say "no" to yourself: No, I don't need to work 14 hours a day. No, I don't need to triple-check that email or obsess over a small detail. You can't say "no" all the time, of course, but you can integrate it judiciously into your vocabulary in order to free yourself to pursue other priorities.
- Take time off. This is going to be a hard one. Chances are you have some unused vacation days. Take a few (or more) and limit or restrict your availability. If you cannot completely cut the cord, schedule short amounts of time each day to go through messages or have a brief check-in with the office. Leisure is hard work when you're a workaholic.
When you feel guilty about not working - and you will - remind yourself that breaks and vacations boost cognitive ability, increase productivity, and will only enhance your performance at work. Enjoy yourself. That's an order!!