Sandy Schoeneich

For many individuals, career identity and job status is a major defining feature of who they are. Many of us feel important through the type of work that we do and we are quick to hang on to our career as an important aspect of our identity and our life. Because of this, a lot of folks tend to become “workaholics” to some degree. However, letting your work take over other important areas of your life is not necessarily healthy nor is it ideal. Do you work excessively long hours and constantly check your phone or email after work hours? Are you often breaking plans or shorting your loved ones on time because of your work demands? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may need to revisit your work-life balance. In Rebecca Knight’s article, How to Break your Addiction to Work, the author discusses several issues with overworking yourself and how you can break the cycle. This blog post will reflect on her discussion.

We live in a society where work is considered “morally worthy” – a culture where work demands our undivided attention and energy. In this type of lifestyle, being a workaholic is not necessarily deemed as bad. If you feel challenged, engaged, purposeful, and feel growth at your workplace, all of the demands can then feel very rewarding. However, if you give all of your energy to work, you will eventually catch onto some of the negative consequences that are a result of overworking. Burnout is a real thing, and it can also take a toll on your personal relationships, your physical/mental/emotional health, and your productivity. The good news it that there are several things that you can do to overcome your addiction with working.

Step 1: Redefine success

The first step to overcome being a workaholic is to rethink how you define success. Workaholics tend to be perfectionists that are always on the go and needing to get things done. Professional achievements are positive and they certainly boost our self-esteem. However, they are not the “end all be all” in life – in addition to reaching your professional goals, you also need to be able to set healthy boundaries around work. It is necessary to set boundaries in the workplace because you have to create space for other areas of your life such as family, your physical/mental health, and spiritual health. Your self-worth should never revolve around your career and level of prestige. Your self-worth also has to take into account your relationships, involvement in the community, and your mental/emotional well-being.

Step 2: Refocus your attention

Next, take a minute to reflect on how and where you want to direct your energy. Think about what areas and aspects of your life are most meaningful, particularly outside of your career. Make active choices to allot a certain amount of energy into your work, but then recognize the time to divert your attention to other important areas of your life. When you are spending time with your loved ones or connecting with the community, make sure you focus your energy just on that. Do not get distracted by work calls or emails during these important moments.

Step 3: Reset your expectations

When trying to break your work “addiction”, know that you will need to turn to your people and ask for their support in holding you accountable. Advocate for yourself at work and reset some expectations with your boss (whatever is feasible). Ask for a few days off, or ask for an extension on a timeline. You can also request for boundaries around when you are expected to be “offline” – state that you need to no longer accept calls or return emails after a certain hour so that you can be more present for your family. Give your loved ones permission to “call out” your overstepping a after-work boundary during family time.

Tips for attaining work-life balance

The first tactic you can try to reduce your overworking habits is to minimize your electronic usage. Make your electronics (tablets, smart phones, laptops) less accessible after work hours. Another thing to be mindful about is to not use your phone as a time-filler. We often turn to our phones when we are bored or anxious, or to kill time as we wait for something. The mindfulness around this tactic will help you stay present in the moment and more aware of what is happening around you. Lastly, model appropriate electronic usage at the workplace. If you are conversing with a coworker, regardless if it’s during a meeting or in-between appointments, put the phone away and focus our attention onto your co-worker. It is simply rude to be distracted on your phone while you’re talking to someone face-to-face, regardless of who they are. This is especially true for when your with your loved ones.

Another tool that you can utilize while trying to improve your workaholic tendencies is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that encourages people to bring nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness to their day-to-day functioning. This can include taking a moment to do some deep breathing before you start your day, to step outside of the office and take a walk around the building/block, or to take a break from work and scan your mental and physical energy.

Lastly, make sure you prioritize your physical health. If you’re not taking care of your health, it’ll be more difficult to be productive at work and present for your loved ones. Incorporate physical activity into your weekly routines and eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. All of these factors will impact your energy and focus – both in the workplace and out. If you’re not taking care of you first, other areas of your life will feel the consequences.

If you’re struggling with creating a healthy work-life balance, therapy may be a helpful resource for making positive changes. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get set up with one of our talented clinicians today!

Rebecca Knight’s article, How to Break Your Addiction to Work, was referenced for this post