If your relationship with work messes up your relationship with others, you might be a workaholic. Why have you been working this hard? Let’s see if we can find an explanation for you, whether you’re the anxious, the unseen, the yes-person, the artist, or the procrastinator.
THE ANXIOUS WORKAHOLIC
You might look like a hard-working person who has it all together. But if we could look inside your thoughts, we’d find a tangled web of worries and we’d probably hear a lot of screaming. The Anxious Workaholic works hard because work feels like being in control. The rest of the world seems totally chaotic. If you had to sit alone with your memories and thoughts, no phone, no book, no TV, no music, could you do it? For how long?
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE ANXIOUS ALL THE TIME.
Well, work isn’t the worst option, people have done more harmful things than working to avoid their feelings. But here’s the issue, if you only have one mode (Go-Go-Go), you will burn yourself out QUICKLY.
Instead, build in mini-breaks throughout your day. Take them right after lunch, right before you get out of the car and go in the house after work.
You don’t have to meditate for an hour or do a 30-day digital detox to benefit from quiet time. Start with 30 seconds. The world will be fine for 30 seconds. Set a timer, keep a piece of paper handy, and just let yourself notice what happens when you get quiet. Take a note if something important comes to mind, and take it to your support system, your spiritual mentor, or your therapist.
THE UNSEEN WORKAHOLIC
You might be an unseen workaholic if you work really hard, but you go unnoticed. I’m not talking about just being underappreciated, although you might be, but I’m talking about you literally avoiding talking about how hard you work or how hard your work is.
Some people have jobs they can proudly discuss at a party or a bar. You? You never mention it. You don’t want to get judged, get minimized, or hear people tell you how special or cool you are for doing what you do. You might get celebrated or patronized, but never truly listened to. Because what are people going to say? Anyone could have predicted that…You can’t change now… Aren’t you grateful?…Seems better than a cubicle…
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WORK GOES UNSEEN.
When you have been so protective about something you do for hours every day, you start to hide not just parts of your job, but parts of yourself. Everyone deserves respect, whether you’re paid a lot or nothing at all. Everyone deserves support, whether your job is prestigious or totally hidden. Seek a mentor with a similar experience. Seek a community of others who are dealing with the same stuff. And if you need a fully confidential, nonjudgmental place to talk about everything, therapy is a great option.
THE WORKAHOLIC WHO CAN’T SAY NO (THE YES-PERSON)
You might be stumbling into workaholic behaviors, not because you love the work, but because you can’t say no. This isn’t about your passion, your bliss…No, you’re being “volun-told” to handle certain tasks. Meetings keep getting scheduled over your lunch time. You’ve clocked out and hung up your apron but you do a trash run on your way to your car. What’s 10 minutes between friends, right? You bring work home even that someone else should have done. Bitterness is your BFF.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T SAY NO.
Hey, we all gotta hustle, but this is more than that. I’ll be lovingly frank, you need some boundaries. Figure out your reasonable working hours. Send your feedback in writing to the person who schedules the meeting over your break, because you won’t be there! If you work late one day, inform your team that you’ll be in late the next day. Designate certain hours for checking email. If there is a true emergency, people will figure out a way to contact you. Spend the first hour or two working on a project that makes a difference, not solving the problems other people are responsible for…and definitely not checking emails or social media (unless social media is your job).
THE RESPONSIBLE WORKAHOLIC
You are the responsible workaholic if everyone around you, your family, friends, peers, boss, always assume that you’ll “handle it.” While they’re probably right, you do handle things well, you aren’t really given a choice. No one is really asking you if you can, if you want to handle these things, they just know that you will. And no one knows the real impact all this “handling it” is having on you.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE SICK OF BEING THE RESPONSIBLE ONE.
You need to start letting people know what it means when they give you responsibilities that you didn’t choose. Start teaching your teenager that their last-minute big project means that dinner is leftovers, and they can make assemble the plates. Inform your boss that the additional 10 hours of work they’ve given you will mean that another assignment will be delayed by a couple days. Tell your family that when they “borrow” money and take too long to return it, you’re scrambling to make your own ends meet.
Stop pretending that this is all “fine.” Let the people around you see the impact they are having on you and them. And if you are the only person in your life that has ever been this responsible, consider finding a safe place to talk about it. That’s a lot of pressure.
THE WORKAHOLIC ARTIST
You did it. Your job is your passion. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” right? Maybe, but you’re also never around for anything else. You’re easily aggravated with interruptions, texts about what time you’re coming home, reminders to put your work away at home. Even though these annoyances are just people telling you that they want to spend time with you, you resent them a little. You don’t even know what to talk about with them other than your work.
WHAT TO DO IF ART CONSUMES YOUR LIFE
As the artist in my life reminds himself regularly, “you need to have inputs to create outputs.” If you don’t gather experiences, spend time with others, and work different muscles, your well will run dry. If you can’t find a balance with your art, find a balance because of your art. Your art needs you to stumble across the profound in everyday life. It’s a lot harder to share what you haven’t lived.
THE WORKAHOLIC PROCRASTINATOR
People think you’re disorganized, lazy, or distracted, but that’s not really the problem. The pressure of a tight deadline and the possibility of failure give you a rush. You’re not lazy, you need the adrenaline. And because there’s ALWAYS another big thing that’s piled up, behind, or undone, you’re never bored. You’re also never really available. You never really calm down, you’re constantly multi-tasking. You get to 95% on your work and then sabotage it.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU CAN’T STOP PROCRASTINATING.
What you need to do is probably the thing that is hardest for you. You need to slow down and get to know yourself. Acknowledge that you have a gift for handling stressful situations. You’ve gotten away with this behavior for this long, after all! Then, accept the reality that life will throw you plenty of curveballs, you don’t have to create them.
If you have a notebook, you can use it to answer some big questions for yourself:
- What are you avoiding by keeping your life so stressful?
- What thought, feeling, or situation would be on your mind if you didn’t have this chaos swirling around you?
- If the people around you saw you as the competent, hard-working person that you are underneath, what would happen next? Are you okay with that?
No matter what type of workaholic you are, this behavior isn’t about whether you can handle the work, it’s about the difficulty with maintaining boundaries, getting rest, and tolerating the natural rhythm of life.
There are lots of things you can do to take good care of yourself and still make your life and your work fit well together. Mental health professionals, like therapists, psychologists, and clinical social workers, are not just good listeners, we’re also social scientists, business owners, and incredibly hard working people. Take advantage of that knowledge and experience.
If you want help changing these patterns, come to therapy! You can get started with me if you SEND ME A MESSAGE.