It’s been about a month since my last post. I have to be honest, I hadn’t even realized that 4 weeks passed because I’ve been leaving task list to task list on auto pilot for too long. Sound familiar? Let’s talk about how people praise Workaholism too much and often ignore their mental heath. Below are 6 things to consider.
What’s Your Personality?
Before discussing what Workaholism is and its characters, let’s see where you are in terms of a personality set. Often when we speak about employees in the workplace, we classify some as Type A or B personality sets. However, there is a spectrum between the two in which certain characters can overlap in a variety of different ways. For the purpose of this blog post, Type A individuals are usually uptight, anxious, competitive, and perfectionists. On the other hand, Type B individuals are lax, calm, social, and satisfied. Stereotypically, Type A employees are seen as the overachievers who go for management positions, while Type B employees do the bare minimum and enjoy the journey. In this case, when it comes to Workaholism, it seems that the Type A individuals would have a greater chance of over working and being unsatisfied which could affect their holistic health. This is not to say that anyone in that category will have adverse health issues, but that depending on their character traits and tendencies, those actions could lead to risky behaviors. If you’d like to see which personality type you are, click here.
2. What Work Do You Do?
Once you’ve been honest with your tendencies and personality set, consider the demands of your job or career. More importantly, how does your line of work align with your personality set. So this isn’t a question of whether your job would be considered “hard,” “difficult,” nor “challenging” in the eyes of others, but subjectively…how much does your work drain you…or does it?
While I do not like extremes, if I were on the spectrum of Type A or Type B, I would hang out closer to the Type A side. I work to see things through to the end and I want the work that I put out to be great. I like things to be done a certain way and in an orderly fashion. I am the Queen of the never ending To Do List. I like to please and impress others, especially my bosses or supervisors. I have a reputation to uphold and I push myself to be the best.
With this in mind, when I work within an environment that is flexible, unpredictable, or draining, I am faced with a great challenge. I currently service as a facilitator which mean I teach “soft skills” or (how to be a decent human being) to 6-12 graders (and occasionally corporate groups). The very nature of this work is that my calendar can change throughout the day at any time. My site location is free flowing with people whose roles overlap. And every class or workshop I hold has a new set of faces, personalities and challenges with a size being anywhere from 6-30 participants. There are so many variables and at times so little notice that it is hard for me to be proud of my work, because I do not feel that I was at optimal performance.
3. What Are Your Priorities?
Almost every time I write a post about life or giving advice, I always ask this question. Because although our experiences are subjective, our priorities require us to think objectively sometimes. After reviewing your character traits and if it aligns with your line of work, you have to make a decision about what is most important. Is your family and their comfort important? Are you going on a trip in a couple of months that requires some preparation? Is completing your last work assignment to perfection life or death?
Think about your goals, hopes, and dreams. What comes first or is competing for that spot? My goal is to become financially stable and be in an environment that is healthful and encourages my creativity. I hope to touch lives through conversations, idea sharing, and modelling certain behavior. I do not have a dream, direction, or specific aim and that scares me. I can make a list of things that I like or enjoy, but I don’t know what the conclusion to my story would/ should look like.
Your priorities may be different and thinking about those might require a different career path or a shift in your personal set. So consider whether you encourage or resist change and why? Remember to stay objective when it comes to achieving that goal or satisfying your priorities.
4. What is Workaholism?
During my senior year in undergraduate, one of my research assignments focused on the Romanticism of Workaholism entitled “Discouraging Work Addiction”. I came to this topic because I was in my final year surrounded by students who were stressed about everything, depressed as a result of living like robots, underwhelmed with options for stress release, and under-impressed with the world surrounding us. Our main goal was to survive our final year walking the stage in one piece, even if that meant grabbing some duct tape and re-attaching our mangled limbs to our half functioning bodies. I always made my friends and co-workers promise that “If for some reason, I do not make it to the stage alive, place my diploma in my casket with all the signatures. I want proof of the blood, sweat, and tears that I endured while here. And if you don’t, I will haunt all of you in my afterlife.”
I wonder why now. In an earlier post, I wrote about the weight of college and the effect it took on me. I had not realized how traumatic those four years were in my life until I returned and was triggered. I experienced almost emotions and feelings like hopefulness, uncertainty, betrayal, fear, anxiety, apathy, atrophy, disjointed, determined, disgusted, depressed, and excited to move on. It was a terrible journey with highs and lows. It’s kind of like trying to find yourself in a sea full of mud and eventually someone hands you a straw so you can breathe.
However, the thing that kept me there was my Workaholism. The word was originally meant to mimic Alcoholism, but is not seen as a character defect within our society (Robinson, 1996, p.447). For example, alcoholics feel an internal motivation to drink excessive amounts of alcohol with time. Alcoholics place the need for the bottle over the need to seek help with life stresses, maintain good physical health, and connect with family in a positive way. While alcoholics have a culturally negative association with their addiction, workaholics are admired for the same association with work. Workaholism is defined by a combination of “high in work involvement, being driven or compelled to work by inner pressures, and low enjoyment at work” (Kanai, 2009, p.213). So there’s this push and pull with wanting to be the best and put in the most hours with a never ending To Do List and not attending to all aspects of ones health.
Work addicts usually fall under the Type A personality which speaks to their ambition, logic, and competitive nature (Robinson, 2014, p. 91). People with Type A personality traits also score high on anxiety, hostility, and anger (Robinson, 2014, p. 91). Meanwhile, these strong traits are connected to a “decreased self-esteem and perceived control”(Robinson, 2014, p. 129). Though these individuals may appear to be put together and on top of things, they actually have significant levels of poor self-esteem and self-doubts. These addicts begin to view their success and self-worth based on their accomplishments. The ten qualities used to determine a work addict, as posed by Robinson (1996), are as follows: Time Urgency, Need to Control, Perfectionism, Difficulty with Relationships, Work Binges, Difficult Relaxing and Having Fun, Burnouts, Impatience and Irritability, Self-Inadequacy, and Self-Neglect.
5. What’s This Got To Do With Depression and Anxiety?
With high work demands, need for perfection, and difficulty relaxing, comes less time to recenter, build meaningful relationships, and disable your flight, fight, or freeze signals. Being consumed by the demands of work can lead to unhealth eating habits, irregular sleeping patterns, less physical active or experience that which gives you job (unless work is joy, but I think everything is great in moderation). As time continues, these individuals could experience Depression and/ Anxiety.
The symptoms of Depression align with effects from work addiction. This includes restlessness, lack of sleep (which can cause you to be irritable), sometimes even too much sleep, fatigue, and worthlessness. If things are not going well at work or one is not achieving high, then this can have a negative effect on the workaholic. Additionally, spending long hours working, leaves little time for friends, families, or hobbies which can give you happy hormones. There is a lot of information out there about Depression and its difference from just being sad. Experience with Depression is different for everyone, so if you think this is something you are dealing with, continue research on the links above and speak with a health care professional (or someone you trust to help you explore options).
Although separate by definition, Anxiety can often be a close friend of Depression for our Type A Workaholics. Anxiety is a nervousness, uneasiness, or need to do something to preparing for or prevent something. However, it is important to clarify that it is excessive worrying or a compulsion to complete a task, rather than just jitters before a test. It’s a conversation that more of “I created 15 different color coded schedules for Fall Semester,” than “I hope I’m not late to class.” And even if you were to stay the late, a super anxious person would should 15-30 minutes early, just to ensure that they’re not late. Or walk there route from each class a few times, to be sure they found the most efficient route. It’s really about how their body process stress. This brings me back to the flight, fight, or freeze signals. With high functioning Anxiety, there is little difference from having a test next class and being chased by a bear after being drenched in organic honey.
6. Living to Work or Working to Live?
As you can see, our actions and choices in our every day lives can affect a combination of all 6 aspects of our health: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Social, Environmental, and Spiritual. So the question here is whether your priorities or goals align with your actions. Is you main goal in life to work? Or are you working so that you can enjoy your life? Or somewhere in between?
There is a difference between working to put food on the table and be able to spend time with friends or family and excessively working to be number one for the day, week, month, or year. I always encourage others to consider their holistic health (those 6 aspects mentioned above). I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s necessary if you want to live a full and healthful life.
I am living and working with Depression and Anxiety. And it is tough, because I’m either doing extremely well and can toot my own horn or I’m glue to my pillow ALL DAY. I have the personality of a person who wants to be a social butterfly and make people proud. I have been drawn to the field of Education while connection my love for Communication and Psychology. However, this line of work in light of our political and social climate is so taxing. My ultimate priority is to live in blissful solitude, so that during the week I can be a superhero and binge watch Netflix on the weekends (or paint or write or dance or go to the beach, I got options!). I really believe that my work can be transformative, but I do not see it manifesting soon enough. Knowing all of this, I attempt to balance my 6 aspects of health but I fail terribly because I’m not disciplined and am limited by Depression and Anxiety.
I don’t want to live pay check to pay check to barely stay afloat. I don’t want to spend so much money on a house that I’ll rarely see. I want the flexibility to live and just be. However, I do not think that I have that luxury, due to my age, ethnicity, social economic status, and financial standing. I don’t know if that bliss is ever coming or if it even matters. Maybe we can talk about my occasionally Nihilism another week. I hope this post gave you enough food for thought. Feel free to leave comments below!
P.S. Citations Below…Let me know if you want more resources!
Kanai, A. (2009). “Karoshi (Work to Death)” in Japan. Journal of Business Ethics, 84 (2): pp. 209-216. Doi: 10.1007/s10551-008-9701-8.
Robinson, B. (1996). The Psychosocial and Familial Dimensions of Work Addiction: Preliminary Perspectives and Hypotheses. Journal of Counseling & Development, 74 (5): pp. 447-452. Doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1996.tb01891.x.
Robinson, B. (2014). Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them (3rd ed.). New York City, NY: NYU Press.