3 Empowering Ways To Break Free From Your Cycle Of Workaholism
The most effective way to recover from workaholism is by decoding its innerworkings.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | September 2, 2023
Workaholism can have detrimental effects on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What may at first glance appear as dedication and commitment might conceal underlying maladaptive and addictive tendencies towards one's work that warrant careful attention.
A 2016 study published in PLOS ONE found significant positive correlations between workaholism and manifestations of several distinct psychological disorders. These disorders encompassed a range of psychological conditions, including but not limited to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders.
Potential explanations for excessive work engagement include:
- Fear of failure and perfectionism. Excessive working may be driven by an intense fear of failure and the need to achieve perfection in every task. Individuals who struggle with perfectionism often push themselves beyond healthy limits, convinced that anything less than flawless is unacceptable. This fear-driven mindset can lead to an unending cycle of overworking, as the individual constantly strives to meet unrealistic standards.
- External validation and self-worth. People sometimes derive their sense of self-worth from external sources, such as recognition and praise from colleagues, superiors, or even society. The constant need for validation can fuel workaholic tendencies, as one's self-value hinges on being recognized within a group and material achievements.
- Escape from personal issues. Immersing oneself in work can provide temporary relief from difficult situations, leading to over-reliance on the workplace as a way to escape real-life issues. This unhealthy way of coping often results in neglecting other important aspects of life, resulting in a lopsided work-life balance.
Acknowledging the interplay between these latent determinants and the propensity for excessive work engagement is of paramount significance and an essential first step to ensure well-being.
Here are two strategies to help counteract workaholism.
1. Be Cognizant of your Time, Safeguard Against Workaholism
To effectively shield yourself from the adverse impacts of workaholism and regain command over your time and emotions, consider the implementation of a comprehensive time audit. This entails meticulous tracking of daily activities, the time taken to accomplish them, and the emotions they evoke.
This process ensures you are mindful of your daily routine and nudges you to focus on activities that genuinely uplift your mood. There are two significant ways in which this practice proves beneficial.
- One of the principal reasons why a time audit functions as a defense against workaholism is because it aids in the establishment of a harmonious work-life balance. Through diligent record-keeping and thorough analysis, you can discern patterns of excessive work and pinpoint areas where personal time is compromised. This heightened awareness empowers conscious allocation of time for both work and non-work pursuits, ensuring that neither domain encroaches upon the other. Research has, time and again, highlighted the importance of personal time that buffers against the effects of workaholism. For instance, the findings of a study indicates that the presence of a caring and understanding partner could help alleviate some of the strain that workaholic tendencies might otherwise impose on the individual's relationships and overall well-being.
- The scope of the time audit goes beyond mere activity tracking – it delves into the realm of emotions. By documenting feelings alongside each activity, you can identify emotional triggers associated with overwork or neglect of personal time. This self-awareness helps you recognize and address emotional patterns, facilitating informed choices in dealing with the issue.
Though studies have observed that individuals who exhibit workaholic tendencies may engage in extensive smartphone usage, which can lead to disrupted sleep quality, you can spin the situation around and leverage the use of technology to your advantage. Try to cut back by setting notifications or automated replies to signal the end of the workday, or to set bedtime reminders to effectively draw boundaries.
2. Schedule Downtime, Curtail Emotional Escapism
Mitigating emotional escapism through work necessitates a purposeful and structured approach to downtime. To counteract the allure of unstructured free time and ensure due consideration for your personal life, scheduling dedicated intervals for relaxation and non-work activities is crucial.
Structured time allocation serves as a steadfast defense against the inclination to revert to work or less fulfilling activities during unstructured periods. Designating specific time blocks for non-work engagements within your daily routine is one way to establish a framework for downtime. Treating these allotted slots as inviolable appointments, as you would treat any other official meeting, safeguards leisure time by ensuring work-related obligations don't eat into moments of relaxation.
Furthermore, active engagement in hobbies, social interactions and personal pursuits act as a potent shield against emotional escapism. Engaging in activities that nourish the mind, body and spirit contribute to a more well-rounded life. These pursuits serve as poignant reminders of the multifaceted nature of one's identity, reinforcing the understanding that emotional well-being is intricately interwoven with various facets of life, extending beyond mere professional accomplishments.
Insights from a study published in Journal of Organizational Behavior emphasizes the importance of delineating clear boundaries between work and personal time, particularly for those who tend to be consumed by work obligations. The findings imply that the act of extending work-related tasks beyond the typical workday boundaries, such as responding to emails, finalizing reports, or conducting job-related research, could potentially exact a toll on the well-being of those who already display elevated levels of workaholism.
The study thus suggests that directing one's energy towards physical pursuits can yield significant benefits in terms of emotional and mental rejuvenation. Encouraging regular physical activity, even in small doses, could be an effective strategy to counterbalance the potential negative effects of workaholism.
While society may reward overworking, the costs often outweigh the benefits, resulting in burnout, depression and strained relationships. By acknowledging the hidden motivations behind workaholism and adopting these proactive techniques, you can pave the way to a healthier, more balanced life — one where productivity complements, rather than eclipses, well-being.