As is the case with many behaviors that have an addictive pattern, workaholism is reinforcing, and so you may feel you benefit from the behavior and have difficulty recognizing that it is problematic. Especially in our society, where achievement, independence (as opposed to a relational focus), and work success are very highly valued, success at work, being a high achiever, and taking no breaks... aka workaholism, can be particularly difficult to recognize and/or want to change because the behavior and results of it are, in many ways rewarding, and positive. However, workaholism can lead to problems in relationships, negative physical health consequences, and mental health problems such as increased anxiety and irritability. Often, you may not recognize that you are behaving as such or that it is problematic.
Once you realize you are a workaholic, it is important to try to find more balance in your life. Perhaps there is a reason you are a workaholic, like you are trying to get away from an unhappy home situation, or you are lonely, or you do not pursue other interests so this is the only way to feel worthwhile. It can be helpful to see a therapist for help understanding what is driving the behavior and how to work on the underlying issue(s).
7 Signs You May Be a Workaholic
1. Your relationships outside of work are suffering because you find yourself putting work first. Often this is not because you care more about it, but the anxiety you may experience when you have a task overhanging, can be unbearably uncomfortable. However, if your relationships with your partner, family, and friends are being repeatedly ignored or cast aside in the service of needing to 'finish one last email,' or stay late one more night to finish up, it is worth looking at your behavior and considering a chance. Most workaholics hear complaints from their partners, family, and friends about this and if you find that this is happening to you, it would be wise to take their feedback seriously.
2. You find yourself constantly thinking about work. You are preoccupied with work and never get a break. There is not much separation between work and home, and you are routinely bringing work home with you and even up to bed. As many people now work from home, this difficulty protecting home for relaxation and relationships can be even more common.
3. You engage in checking behaviors. You check your work email excessively to see if that customer has responded or if you get an email from your boss, for example, you feel like you must respond right away. You also check your planner or calendar on your phone frequently to see your to do list and might even be routinely adding to it while outside of work when you could be relaxing.
4. You have a hard time relaxing. You feel guilty if you are not working. You find yourself unable to enjoy being present in the moment even if you really want to be, because your anxiety creeps in and you cannot stop thinking about work.
5. As a result of your difficulty relaxing and potential worries about work, you experience muscle tension, regular headaches, teeth grinding or TMJ, or other health consequences directly related to chronic levels of stress.
6. You receive praise at work for being “always available,” responding immediately to emails, or always going above and beyond. Of course, praise at work is important, but if you notice you are regularly standing out for working harder than anyone else, chances are this is coming at some cost to you.
7. You feel anxious and irritable if something impedes your ability to work or complete a task to your satisfaction. In fact, you may notice that your self-esteem is so closely tied to work alone that you start to worry greatly about what you imagine will happen if you run out of time or do not do as good a job as you would like. You feel resentful of those who get in the way of your work. You don’t take vacation time or sick time when needed, and you certainly do not take a lunch break. You might even work against medical advice. You might find yourself regularly inhaling lunch at your desk or just eating a protein bar.
So now that you have realized that this way of life may not actually be serving you as well as you thought, it is time to consider some changes.
The important thing to realize about making change in this area is that you will experience intense anxiety, irritability, guilt, or resentment when you are first trying to change. This is part of the process of any change. You need to learn or relearn how to take breaks and have balance.
It can be helpful to create a very deliberate work free zone at home, for example, during certain hours. You can gradually increase the hours but start small and realistically.
Put away your phone and computer during your work free zones or first thing in the morning and right before bed to resist the temptation to engage in checking behaviors like seeing if your boss has emailed.
Try to fully engage in your time at home and prioritize your relationship with your partner. Focus on what your partner is saying to you and ask questions about their day. Make a plan to go out on a date.
Do things that help you relax or feel better, such as take a long shower or go to the gym and that can serve as a helpful way to symbolically shift out of work mode.
Start taking breaks at work during lunch, for example. It is important to take time for yourself and not taking any breaks actually hinders productivity. You may find that you feel a lot sharper after the break.
Reward yourself for making positive changes. Also, add other positive activities into your life so you are not just focusing on taking away behaviors. Make plans with your family during the weekend, schedule a vacation, or reignite your passion for an old interest like sports, crafts or religion.
Keep in mind that changing behaviors like workaholism, which likely is deeply ingrained in you, is a big challenge. Therapy can be especially helpful if you believe you are struggling with workaholism and your health and relationships are suffering.
It can be common to experience lowered self-esteem around Valentine’s Day, in particular. Based on your past experiences and what you have learned to emphasize on your life, you have certain aspects of life that you value and which heavily impact self-esteem. For many young women, appearance and being seen as desirable or being in a relationship both strongly influence self-esteem. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can put you at the mercy of others and at risk of feeling terrible simply if the wind blows the wrong way, so to speak. Even if those aren’t the most important areas from which you derive your sense of self-worth, the barrage of Valentine’s Day commercialization and media will take a hit on you. After all, how can you read and watch and hear about relationships being the be all end all and not be affected? It is certainly possible to overcome this, but you must be aware that it is happening. If it is happening for you then you may want to consider making some changes to how you think about your sense of self-worth that way it can be both more stable and more in your control as opposed to in others'.
6 Tips for Boosting Your Self-Esteem Right Now
1. Take some time to make a list of the factors that play a role in your self-esteem, such as being seen as desirable by others, being accomplished at work, being physically fit, being a good friend, being a good partner, or whatever else may be there. Be honest with yourself. If how much money you have or how much recognition you get at work is really important, that is necessary information to know. Once you have outlined the factors influencing your self-esteem, note the following things: you do not want it to be all coming from one place. Remember the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you do that, then if one area of your life goes wrong, you will have a major problem and your self-esteem will actually be quite flimsy. Try to think about other factors, factors that are within you, and well within your control, that you value, such as being knowledgeable about world events or having a healthy relationship with food. Emphasize building up those areas in your life.
2. Try to think about other things you value like education or health or having fun. The more the better. And then come up with some measurable and realistic, small ways to move toward those goals. If you are all about physical fitness, make a specific goal for yourself. Next, give yourself credit! Having a sense of accomplishment can go a long way and chances are you do many things each day that you could give yourself a pat on the back for, and which you do not. Look for things that you would give others credit for doing. That can give you some of the distance you may need to see just how much you are doing.
3. Notice negative self-talk and thoughts and be skeptical of it/them. Even just acknowledging that this is your negative self-talk speaking and is not necessarily true can be very helpful. Of course, the goal is to replace the thought with something more accurate and more adaptive, but that can come later.
4. Self-validation is key. Notice how you’re feeling and validate why that might be. Tell yourself that it make perfect sense that x, y, and z. Self care carries implicit self-validation so it is important to focus on that at any time when your self-esteem could use a boost. Some examples might be getting a massage, taking time for you, journaling, taking a relaxing shower or bath and making that a priority, or getting plenty of sleep.
5. Limit your exposure to social media and media outlets that emphasize appearance and relationships. Try to dial down the time on social media during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. What good will it do to reach everyone’s mushy love note status updates on Facebook and pictures on Instagram. The same goes for limiting unhelpful magazines, shows, or movies. Romantic comedies may not be the way to go here, but rather, if you know of a comedy that doesn’t revolve around a relationship or a feel good movie about self-empowerment, take some time to give that a look.
6. Spend extra time with friends and reach out for support. If you tell others you are struggling then you already are one step closer to feeling better. It can be helpful to get into a regular habit of checking in with friends instead of putting on a facade all the time that everything is ok.