January 20th, 2012

Are You a Workaholic? Be Careful… Your Job Could End Up Killing You

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WorkaholicAre you a workaholic? Living in a state of stress produces an adrenaline rush, and over time, this becomes addictive, and you lose the ability to relax. Common sense would tell you that you need to take breaks and rest, but instead you overindulge in work, and face the consequences. If you have a physiological addiction to work, you are a workaholic.

Risks of Living a Workaholic Lifestyle

For people under fifty, what is the greatest predictor of heart attacks? More potent than smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes? It’s job satisfaction (Dossey 1992). We’ve known this for more than twenty years, and yet many of us don’t make changes when we get stuck in a toxic work environment. Career stress is the greatest health problem for working adults.

The workaholic lifestyle is becoming a bigger problem each year in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there are an estimated 10 million workers who average more than 60 hours per week. According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers (International Labor Organization 2011).

Workaholics live a very unhealthy way of life. Research shows that they have a significantly higher than average incidence of stress-related illnesses, divorce, and alcohol abuse. There has even been a support group started in the United States called Workaholics Anonymous, with over 50 meetings now taking place on a regular basis.

As further proof of the workaholic lifestyle problem, more Americans are canceling their vacations each year. According to a USA Today survey, 64 percent of Americans canceled their vacations in 2010. One third canceled their vacations due to work-related reasons, 25 percent check into work regularly while on vacation, and 58 percent feel they are more in need of a vacation than last year (Shontell 2010, September 13).

Symptoms of Living a Workaholic Lifestyle

Burnout: You may be burnt out but still continue to push on at your job. Think about lifting weights at the gym. When you push yourself beyond your ordinary work limits, and regularly seek recovery, you will grow. When you don’t allow yourself to recover, you end up getting burned out as a consequence.

Fear of losing your job: You may have a strong fear of being fired or laid off. This is related to the false belief of obtaining 100% job security. Complete job security is never a reality, and becoming a workaholic due to fear only leads to unhappiness. You aren’t changing the fact that you could still be fired or laid off. You’re just losing your free time and peace of mind.

Artificial importance: You may be addicted to your work on a psychological level. Maybe you like the feeling of importance when you become busier. Even when it means being unavailable to your friends and family. This artificial importance will only create artificial success and eventually lead to unhappiness.

Drugs mask the problem: If you rely on alcohol, marijuana or sleeping pills to calm down, you are trying to artificially create relaxation. Similarly, if you rely on stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamines, you are trying to artificially create alertness. These artificial means of relaxation and alertness are masking the bigger problem. You are overexerting yourself without recovery and living your life in a constant state of stress.

2 Approaches for Curing a Workaholic Lifestyle

Approach 1) Keep your current job, but create healthy work habits. Read my mini-book Escape the Rat Race:

Escape the Rat Race: Change Your Mind or Take the Emergency Exit
How can you escape the rat race? Should you change your job? Or can you keep it, while making smaller changes to your daily habits and ways of thinking? This mini-book explores both options, and teaches you when each is appropriate for escaping the rat race.

Approach 2) Explore options for quitting your job. Check out my mini-book Quit Your Job:

Quit Your Job: Decide When to Leave and What to Do After
How do you decide if you should quit your job or take a sabbatical? This mini-book guides you through making the decision to quit, and what to research before quitting.


Creative Commons License photo credit: patrickgensel

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