The “work hard, play hard” hustle culture of the US applauds long hours, short leave, and scarfing down lunch at the desk while simultaneously keeping an eye on a screen. Yet, with so much time spent dedicated to the job, there is little time left for “play”– many, at most, get two weeks of undisturbed time off in a year. Even days off per week tend to consist of at least a few work email exchanges or finishing unfinished work. Some take it further and stretch their work hours even longer than the already overworked average person. Indeed there are reasonable exceptions for working substantially more than the American norm, but there are also many situations that teeter on toxic behavior.
The ideal that people must exhaust themselves and deprive themselves of pleasure in order to meet their desired business goal is widespread across the globe. In the US, that is particularly true. To put it into perspective, productivity in the US has increased 400% since 1950, and 85.8% of men and 66.5% of women work over 40 hours a week (including parents).
While it is not inappropriate to have a strong work ethic and to have goals, the moment it comes with self-sacrificing, self-sabotaging, or jeopardizing relationships is when it becomes dangerous. To note, productivity is a coping mechanism. When done in excess, it becomes maladaptive coping–a quick fix remedy to relieve discomfort that does not get to the root cause, resulting in negative consequences.
Being overly productive at the cost of sleep, health, and relationships is workaholism. It usually affects people who wish to to deflect their issues and inner conflict. Like alcoholism, workaholism is an addiction. It is a compulsion–an obsessive compulsion to work regardless of consequence. Flirting with the compulsion however, only comes with drawbacks. Overworking leads to stress, anxiety, depression, poor quality of life, and an offset of psychological issues, and in turn can trigger a dual-diagnosis. Meaning a person will then have to deal with two types of addictions to compensate for their avoidance or inability to manage emotions .
Ways to Curb Toxic Symptoms of Workaholism
It can be quite difficult to break away from the impulse to feed workaholism, especially when most of the country thrives on the energy of outcompeting one another in less sleep, missed engagements, and skipped meals in the name of being too busy. But you can certainly try. Here are a few ways to keep yourself in check.
- Meditate: Give your mind a reset and moment to clear itself
- Create boundaries: Make a commitment to yourself and others that you will not do any work during the times A to B
- Turn off notifications: Keep your phone on “Do Not Disturb” during your no work hours
- Do not overextend yourself: Studies show that workaholics perform less effectively than colleagues that have a healthy work-life balance. This is due to taking on too much and not being a team player. Only take on what is realistically feasible.
- Talk to a therapist: Find a mental health professional that can help you work through the symptoms of workaholism, the disorders that may materialize, and ways to cope.
For more information on mental health treatment in Los Angeles, please contact Trauma and Beyond Center ® at 818-351-3511 or visit us at traumaandbeyondcenter.com.