Workaholism 101: Common Symptoms, Causes and Tips
When someone asks how can they stop overworking, what they often hear is to 'simply work less or set some boundaries'. Evidently, this can help but it is not as easy and straightforward as it sounds. The truth is that there are some deeper reasons to why it is so difficult to stop being a workaholic. For instance, we might know that stopping working on a project at five is reasonable. But, we might still be compelled to work well into the night. Why is it that some of us seem addicted to work? And, how can we overcome this?
What is Workaholism?
Workaholism has become a popular buzzword in recent years. It refers to the compulsion to work excessively hard and for long hours. It is an addiction to work that can negatively impact your relationships, mental and physical health, and even your work performance. Workaholics tend to overthink about their jobs during working hours and even during their free time. This can leave them feeling exhausted, fatigued, depressed, and burned out. In this article we will delve into the world of workaholism and discuss what are the telltale signs, what causes it, and how can we overcome it.
4 Workaholism Symptoms and Signs
If you suspect that you are struggling with workaholism, there are various symptoms that can help you decipher whether you need to address your work-life balance. According to psychologists, these are the most common signs of workaholism:
Your life lacks balance
One telltale sign of workaholism is lacking balance in your life. This means having almost no social life, no hobbies, and spending little time on leisure and rest. If you are a workaholic, you can sometimes find yourself neglecting your most basic human needs. For example, you might forget to have lunch, skip a meal, or even postpone going to the toilet. In the long-term, these behaviors can lead to burnout.
You feel that it is never enough
Another symptom of workaholism is feeling as if you have never done enough. You might feel as if there is always something more that you can do. These sort of thoughts are related to perfectionism. This is a self-sabotaging, toxic behavior where we push ourselves for more and never feel satisfied with our performance. Whatever we do, it will never be enough. Every goal we achieve is always followed by another even more unattainable goal. And, the never-ending cycle continues.
If you are curious to learn about what perfectionistic tendencies do you struggle with, we recommend taking a look at our free guide.
Your to-do list never ends
Similar to the previous point, another common sign of workaholism is that your to-do list never seems to end. Every time you complete a work task, you add another one, and keep grinding and adding more and more bullet-points. Ultimately, this behavior reinforces your need to keep working and leaves you feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
You avoid social events
One other symptom of workaholism is avoiding social events. When you are a workaholic, social gatherings can seem as a burden. Namely because after so much work, you simply lack the energy to socialize. Or, oftentimes some people refrain from socializing because they see it as unproductive and believe that they could better use that time for working on their projects. In the end, these beliefs only lead us to feeling even more exhausted, and can be quite counterproductive as they can lead to worse work performance or burnout.
You struggle with health
Finally, one important sign of workaholism is struggling with health issues. Workaholism can lead to many physical and psychological complaints such as anxiety, burnout, sleep problems, fatigue, headaches, and many other hazardous problems. This usually happens because our body is sending us signals asking us to slow down.
Causes of Workaholism According to Psychology
Why do some people struggle with workaholism while others do not? Psychologists and researchers have uncovered various reasons that can explain why some of us tend to overwork. Let's delve into it.
Work became our identity
Something that can lead us down the path of workaholism is if we strongly identify with our work. That is, we do not just simply go to work, but our work defines us. Our job defines our worth, it makes us feel important and successful. In a nutshell, we do not work, we are our work. We oftentimes also believe that the people around us expect this level of workaholism from us. We believe that our work is the only thing that people see in us and the reason why people appreciate us. We might also strongly believe that our work is our legacy and put so much weight on this idea that our work becomes the only thing that is important to us.
What happens then is that we disconnect from the other meaningful areas of our lives. If work is what we are and our legacy, we begin to allocate less and less time to other important life domains such as our social lives and our physical health. This ultimately generates a vicious cycle. As we seclude ourselves from our other life domains, these other domains do not make us happy or feel validated anymore, which leads us to allocate more time to work and seek happiness from work alone.
Believing we do not deserve breaks
Another cause of workaholism is the ingrained belief that we do not deserve a break. Sometimes we grow up with the notion that we have to earn our breaks. That we need to work really hard to deserve a rest. When we were children, we were taught that first comes work and then comes play, and for some reason, many of us still hold this belief close to our hearts. But, this belief does not hold up in adulthood. In adult life, work never ends, there will always be another task to do, another project to complete, and another email to send. So, if we do not choose when to stop, nobody else will do so for us. And, we will continue running in the never-ending hamster wheel.
We seek approval
A third cause of workaholism is that we feel that through our work we earn the approval of others. Most of us learned in our school years that only through our achievements we can earn the praise from others. So, when we grow up, we keep seeking this approval and collecting achievements, trophies, job titles, and rewards because we think that this is the only way we will be accepted by others. We all want to feel important and be validated by others, but putting this much emphasis on seeking approval through work leads us to neglect other core aspects of our lives. We put so much more emphasis on the tangible and ‘productive’ areas of our lives that we dismiss the other as important aspects of who we are. Work is not the only thing that can provide us with the love, validation, and support from others. People can appreciate us as well for our sense of humor, our kindness, honesty, and any of our other non-tangible values. But, we discredit them as in our minds we believe that only the 'practical' aspects of our lives are what matters.
We are escaping from something
Finally, sometimes we resort to overworking and overachieving because it provides us with an escape from something. Work allows us to avoid other more complicated parts of our lives that we might be too afraid, overwhelmed, or anxious to address. For example, we can use work as an escape from processing our emotional issues, relationship problems, or trauma. Overworking allows us to avoid confronting some pressing matters in our lives that we do not know how to navigate.
Workaholism Treatment: 4 Helpful Tips
If any of the workaholism signs above resonate with you, you might be wondering what can you do about it. Sometimes we hear that taking a vacation is the best remedy for workaholism. While going on holidays can be very helpful and enjoyable, the truth is that when you return back to work, your habits will probably remain unchanged and you will resort back to your old workaholic tendencies. That is why in order to overcome workaholism we must delve into our minds and actively try to improve our habits and mindset. Here we share four tips that might help you along your journey.
Redefine your worth
One important first step towards overcoming workaholism is to redefine your beliefs about what makes you a worthy person. You are not solely your work, results, or productivity, you are so much more than that. Take some time and list what makes you worthy. Talk with others and discuss what they appreciate about you. This could help you realize that your work does not define you and that you have many more qualities that make you a worthy and lovable human being.
Finding balance in life is pivotal when trying to overcome workaholism. This means setting boundaries with work, with yourself, and with others. You can try to divide your day into segments and cherish your agenda. When it is time to work, it is time to work. When you have family time, it is time for connection. And, when it is rest time, it is time for your hobbies and having fun. Craft your agenda and fill in your timeslots with all the meaningful activities that will help you attain balance.
Realize what really matters to you
Yes, work really matters. It pays the bills, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and for some it can be very enjoyable. But, there are also many other things in life that can bring you joy, fulfillment, and meaning. Ask yourself: what truly matters to me? Perhaps it seems simple but when asked, many people spend hours thinking about what really brings them joy and realize they have not asked themselves this question in a long time. So, take some time out of your schedule to list what brings you joy, and make sure to add these activities to your agenda.
Address what lurks below the surface
If workaholism is a way of escaping from something, try to find what you are escaping from. Nothing gets truly resolved if we do not actually process it and actively try to address it. Avoiding matters with overworking, or with any other type of distraction, is never helpful in the long-run. In order to attain balance, we first must solve what lurks under the surface. Sometimes this can be scary, so if you ever need a helping hand unravelling what lies within, here at AntiLoneliness we are always happy to help.
The Bottom Line
Workaholism can be caused by many unhelpful beliefs that we hold and can manifest in a variety of symptoms that negatively impact our physical and mental health. We hope the tips we shared can help you or your loved ones overcome workaholism. Along your journey, please remember, you are not alone. If you ever need a helping hand, please feel free to contact us. Take care.
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