I’m a recovering 24/7 workaholic. Fun for me used to be frenzied work, and I got irritated because everyone didn’t want to work as hard as me. One of my “wake up” moments came when I went to work at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning because I was upset about a work problem, so I could send emails to those involved. I realized I was out of control.
If you are like that, but spend your time complaining because “there’s never enough time in the day” for work, kids, activities, etc., to have fun, it’s not too late to learn better.
What difference does it make? I was very lucky not to have significant health problems, and only had hives, depression, overweight, and anxiousness. It could have been so much worse.
The fact is, the human body is well adapted to deal with short-term stress, but if it remains on orange alert for an extended period of time, you grow vulnerable to serious health problems.
So I looked it up: when you are stressed, you get that “fight or flight” response. When you’re stressed, the brain’s sympathetic nerves signal the adrenal glands to release chemicals—among them are epinephrine (aka adrenaline) and cortisol. Persistently high levels of these chemicals can impair memory and learning, and up your odds for depression. Those stress hormones also trigger the liver to increase blood sugar (to give you that kick of energy I was so addicted to).
Our bodies were not meant to live in the “danger” mode—thus our increase these days of type 2 diabetes.
You can’t lead your life or others very well if you are sick all the time.
So what are some ways to lessen that stress and have more fun? Try these:
- Figure out where your stress is coming from. One client told me “It’s my boss. I can’t get away from that.” The truth was his boss didn’t tell him he had to be available by constant text and email during the weekends, but he felt guilty if he didn’t. He said his boss expected it. When I asked him how he knew that, he had no evidence. So instead of turning it off, or “forgetting” it and going out for fun with his kids, he had anchored himself to work for 24/7.
- Figure out healthier ways to “de-stress.” My coping mechanism was eating. I’ve had clients who used alcohol, shopping, etc. What’s one thing you would like to do, if you had time? Go to a museum alone? Meet your friends for lunch? Take a walk. Just go do that. I promise the world won’t end. And if it does, that won’t be the cause.
- Get moving. I never had time to exercise (but I did have time to do what I wanted to do). Everyone can take a walk. If you have small kids, take them with you. Even if your kids are bigger, it’s a great opportunity to connect with them and listen, and it’s good exercise for them too.
- Schedule the time. You won’t do it if you don’t schedule it. It’s as simple as that. Left to my own devices, I’d sit at the computer and write, and work, check on clients, etc. If I didn’t schedule down time, I wouldn’t do it. And when I don’t—I’m right back in the frenzied mode where I don’t want to live.
These are just a few ways to cope with being a workaholic. There may not be real “balance” depending on what’s going on in your life all the time, but we don’t have to get into the habit.
What are some ways you have found to have more fun and less work?