It’s a wobbly job market and many workers fear losing their jobs. Employers are faced with the high demands of producing in this economy and expect employees to deliver strong and measurable results. Cell phones, email and texting all conspire to accelerate work and create clients and customers who demand immediate attention. With all these external pressures more of us are working longer and harder and slowly slipping into a toxic state of workaholism.
Are you always the last to leave the office? Can’t find time to take a vacation or spend time with your family? Do you have difficulty relaxing and allow work to dominate your thoughts after hours? Do you suffer from chronic insomnia or indigestion? If your answer is yes to most of these questions, you may be a workaholic. Although more socially acceptable than alcohol or drugs, workaholism is an addiction that can put a strain on relationships, negatively affect productivity and cause serious health problems.
The process of becoming a workaholic is an insidious one that often defies diagnosis until it is in full bloom. It creeps up in stages which can makes this disorder difficult to identify early on.
In the initial stage, a budding workaholic is constantly busy, putting in more hours than are realistically necessary to complete tasks or projects and finding it difficult to schedule a break during the day or take some time off.
By this time, the workaholic is distancing himself or herself from personal relationships with family and friends, often forgetting important occasions like birthdays and dominating conversation with what’s going on at work. A workaholic may experience physical symptoms associated with stress such as headaches, insomnia or indigestion.
By this stage the workaholic is completely detached from important relationships and shows signs of physical and mental fatigue. Often in this stage the workaholic is angry and resentful and becomes easily irritated. The high level of stress experienced at this stage may turn into a more serious health issue including depression.
Just like any addiction, workaholism is based on needs. Workaholics tend to have difficulty relinquishing control; they don’t easily delegate tasks to others or ask for support. The workplace is an environment that offers the opportunity to excel but workaholics often base their self esteem on approval from others. They will work longer hours with the hope that their extra efforts will result in achievement and recognition. Many workaholics are also addicted to the adrenal high of making important work decisions, negotiating big deals and connecting with important clients. They may choose to spend more time in the office because that’s where the action is.
Steps to overcoming the addiction
Understand you have a problem and that there are solutions. You are a victim of work not a master of work.
Identify what’s most important and tackle that first. Try to under schedule your work on major projects and tasks so that you allow more time than you actually think that you need. You will be less harried by unexpected problems and interruptions.
Just like you schedule appointments and important work meetings, schedule time in advance for activities that you really enjoy from going to the movies, to sports and other fun interests. And be sure to take vacation time.
Make time for exercise, meditation or other expressions of spirituality to support a healthy lifestyle
Ask friends and family to support you in stepping away from work and enjoying your life. Building strong relationships will sustain you in many ways.
Help is on the way if you or someone you know well is struggling with workaholism and needs professional support. Workaholics Anonymous offers many resources including groups that meet in your local area and you can find psychologists and counselors who offer support to workaholics through the directory at Psychology Today.
Work can be an energizing and powerful way to express your talents, display your skills and make an impact. Just don’t allow work to control your life or you will miss out on the endless array of fascinating and enlivening aspects of life that you have every right to experience and enjoy.