The relationship that we, in our modern society, have with the concept of work has been off balance for a long time. The implication that we’re supposed to gain the majority of our fulfillment and our purpose from what we do for a job is beaten into us from a very early age. Even if we may say otherwise with our words, the way that early life is geared towards what we do for a living, and the expectations we have for people to grind and hustle their way to success speaks volumes. It’s no surprise that we have more workaholics than ever, but how do you know if you’re one of them? More importantly, why should you stop?
You regularly work more than expected
Sometimes, you need to deal with a little crunch. If you have goals that you really want to meet, or deadlines that are looming overhead, then working overtime or skipping lunch once in a while is not the end of the world. Sometimes it is worth it for the sake of your career or for the satisfaction of a client. Ambition is not a bad thing. However, if you’re been working overtime more often than not, as of late, or you find yourself constantly stressed about how much work you have to do, that is a red flag that is definitely worth paying closer attention to.
You don’t think about your work-life balance
One of the terms that has become increasingly popular as of late, is that work-life balance can be hard to achieve even for those who are the furthest thing from workaholics due to the demands of the modern working world. However, if you find that you have never really considered it, despite the fact that work is swallowing up more and more of the time and energy that could be spent on improving your life outside of it, then it might be time to consider it. Your job being the top priority is understandable for career-focused people, but putting your personal life on hold can make it difficult to get back in control of it.
You have trouble taking time off
If you’re the kind of person who finds that their vacation days all start to build up at the end of the year, or if you try to get into work no matter what, even when you’re sick, then there’s a good chance you’re a workaholic. It’s a shameful note about our systems of work that “I’ve never taken a sick day” is considered something to be proud of. Not only does it show how much that you’re willing to sacrifice your own personal comfort and well-being for work, but it’s also just not productive. These breaks are vital in helping to keep us motivated, happy, and less likely to burn out at our desks. This also counts if you do take vacations, but still bring your work with you.
You constantly feel the need to do more by yourself
Competitive workplaces can constantly make us feel like we have to do more to keep up with the people around us. However, there has to be a time when we can clock out, and to acknowledge that not everything is our responsibility. One way to stop yourself from being overwhelmed by the need to do absolutely everything is to create not just a to-do list, but a to-don’t list. Learning how to effectively prioritize work, and to point out those tasks that can be done later, if at all, can be vital for helping you stay productive. The same goes for delegation. The desire to constantly micro-manage your own workload, even when you have others that you could share it with, is a strong sign of workaholism.
You have trouble saying ‘no’
Some of the issues above, such as finding yourself constantly dealing with overtime and always with more on your plate than you’re able to do, could be down to your inability to say ‘no’ at work. If you have an easy time prioritizing yourself with friends and family, saying ‘no’ to them in order to protect your well-being and your own time and space, then you should practice doing the same at work, as well. Contrary to popular belief, you’re not likely to get fired or reprimanded for turning down extra hours or a task that’s not your responsibility when your plate is already full. Even if you are, it’s important to know your boundaries and even more important to actually reinforce them.
You’re experiencing relationship issues due to your work
If you’ve ever snapped at a loved one because they’ve demanded your time when you’re trying to work, or you’ve had to put off something that you meant to do at home because work took up more time than intended, try not to worry about it too much. Apologize, but understand that it happens to everyone who has to balance multiple priorities at once. If it happens more frequently, or even on a regular basis, then it could be a clear sign that you’re neglecting your personal relationships for the sake of work and, needless to say, that’s going to lead to major problems down the line.
Your identity is intrinsically linked to your work
It’s becoming a stereotype, now, that the Western world equates identity to work way too much. If your first lines of conversation typically revolve around telling people what you do for a living, and what your position is, it might be time to think about why that is. We are defined by much more than we do as a job alone. In fact, leaning too hard on your pride in your work or your skills can be dangerous, if you ever lose that job or the ability to do it, what are you left with? It’s important to fill in the gaps that might arise if you’re not able to rely on your work to inform your identity anymore.
It forces you to ignore the many negative health consequences of overwork
Part of the “rise and grind” mindset is to ignore or to get past the various physical tolls that work can take on your body. However, these health issues, especially those related to working stress, are not worth ignoring. From tinnitus, fatigue, and mental health problems, right down to chronic conditions like cardiovascular health issues and digestive health trouble, your body will pay the price for overworking if you’re not careful. While you might not always have your current job in the future, you might carry the physical burdens of it well into the future.
One addiction can lead to another
It’s not something that’s often talked about, but those high-powered jobs that demand more from their employees also see some of the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse. With jobs that are stressful or demanding, the temptation to self-medicate with unprescribed substances can be high, indeed. Some of the professions with the highest rates of drug use are planted firmly in the corporate worlds, such as management, information & communications, real estate, finance, and sales. It can become a dangerous cycle, so seeking services like long-term residential treatment centers may well be the first step to breaking the cycle. The mental and physical health impacts of untreated substance abuse are beyond counting.
Your physical health can suffer, as well
It’s not just your emotional health that can be put at risk when you allow yourself to start falling down the slippery slope of workaholism. Extreme work habits can also have some long-standing impacts on your physical body, as well. For instance, you can damage your heart and your lungs, especially if you are already at risk of asthma or cardiovascular issues, by spending too long working every day. The stress that comes with it can also weaken your immune system, making you a lot more likely to become sick more often. What’s more, people who tend to be workaholics also tend to take less care of their bodies, experiencing poor nutrition and a lack of exercise due to the focus on work.
The road to recovery
The ways that workaholism affects your life can vary a lot and, as such, the steps that you can take to recover from it can vary a lot as well. However, there are some tips that can help. First and foremost, you need to acknowledge that it’s a problem and commit to fixing it. You can start by talking to your boss about the habits that you’ve developed, or you can inwardly start setting boundaries, whether it’s a time that you finish working or avoiding checking your work emails at home. Scheduling the time to take care of yourself outside of work, whether it’s intentional rest times, exercise, meditation, or even time for some counseling to get to the root of your workaholism, can help as well.
It’s easy to be proud of being a workaholic. But it’s not healthy. Seriously consider the implications and impacts discussed above, and think about the changes that you need to make to get out of the toxic cycle of letting work drive your quality of life into a nosedive.