Workaholics, you are not alone!
[quote]“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Mohandas Gandhi[/quote]
I have a confession to make. I am a Workaholic. I rarely rest; I want to be working all the time.
It started as a child. My mother told me that once I was old enough to talk, my typical answer when she asked if I wanted to do something was, “I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want to come to the store with me?”
“I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want your lunch?”
“I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want to play outside?”
“I too busy.”
And so it has gone for most of my life.
The incredible irony of this is that I teach people how to de-stress, relax and live a balanced life. And am quite good at teaching these things! Proof of the saying that we teach what we need to learn.
I’m the girl who leaves a relaxing yoga class saying, “I don’t know why yoga has to take so long. I could do all that in 20 minutes.”
When I worked in a law firm, I was often the last to leave at night. And I never, ever said no to overtime projects. It wasn’t for the money; I just had a very strong sense of responsibility.
Years ago, my typical Saturday morning was: work out, clean the house, do the grocery shopping. When I returned at 10 am my roommate would ask, “Now that you’ve done what it takes most people a full day to do, what’s next?” And there was always more.
I had a cat who would occasionally meow loudly and beg for me to pick him up, particularly when I was busy cleaning the house. He was so insistent that I would sometimes surrender and pick him up, then sit with him on the couch — and soon be fast asleep. He seemed to recognize before I did that I was approaching exhaustion and needed a break.
How do you know if you’re a workaholic?
According to dictionary.com, a workaholic is someone obsessively addicted to work. It’s more than working hard; it’s when you become obsessive about working hard, to the exclusion of some of life’s other benefits. It’s a psychological state.
The term was originally coined in 1968 by combining the word “work” with “alcoholic”, which nicely set up the Rodney Dangerfield joke, “My old man was a workaholic. Every time he thought about work, he got drunk.”
Bryan E. Robinson’s Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them gives this description:
don’t have many friends
don’t take care of themselves
don’t have hobbies outside of the office, and he adds the great line:
“A workaholic will be on the ski slopes thinking about his desk.”
I swear only some of these apply to me.
No matter how many of these traits you have, they can put you at risk for greater stress. And it’s an accepted maxim that at least 70% of all illness and health issues are stress related.
Why do we do it?
A friend told me about taking a seminar which taught that around the age of 4-6 years old, we make a statement that defines the defense system we will use for the rest of our lives. I knew immediately what my statement was.
“I too busy…” to be sad, lonely, tired, frustrated, angry… Just fill in the blank.
So that’s my take on the why: it’s a defense system.
If you are a workaholic, sit yourself down and have a little chat with yourself to see if you can figure out why you do it. What needs fixing or adjusting in your life so that you will value balance and time for self more than working?
A good technique I learned from Bear Heart is to ask a question just before you go to sleep and see what answers come in the morning. Be sure to keep a pad of paper and pen on the nightstand. It works very well.
Once you know the why, the solutions will become clearer.
What’s to be done for us?
The better question is, what are we to do for ourselves? It really comes down to lifestyle changes. Here are the solutions that have helped me:
Learn that you don’t have to save the world; the idea of “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done” isn’t true. And if it doesn’t get done, the earth will still spin on its axis. I swear.
One of my best steps towards more balance was to stop eating lunch while working. Bear Heart taught in The Wind Is My Mother that Native people quietly eat at mealtime. They don’t usually talk, but if they do, they keep it on a light note.
My concession to this was to stop eating at my desk. I started it with the intention of trying it for a week and have now been doing it for three years. I do however, read a book while I eat. Just sit there and simply chew for 15-20 minutes? I don’t think so.
If you are a workaholic, and are time-conscious, you may keep an organizer to plan out all your activities, so plan for fun, rest, and restoration!
Schedule time to unplug: turn off the TV, computer, email. Just give them a rest along with yourself. The earth will still spin . . .
Cut back on your to do list; there has to be at least one thing you really don’t have to do. And don’t push yourself to accomplish more than five tasks a day. The projects will still be there tomorrow.
When I was writing The Wind Is My Mother, I wrote six days a week, but never, ever on Sunday. I knew I needed that weekly day off for renewal.
A friend who had a successful dental practice told me the key to his success was planning out time for self: every month he’d go off for a weekend by himself in nature. No TV, books or entertainment. Just him. Did I mention he was very successful?
When stressed, stop and breath slowly and deeply, sending your stress out with your exhale.
Try acting! Imagine you’re an actor playing the part of very low key, relaxed person. Visualize yourself as calm. If you can see it, you can be it!
Journal about what stresses you and write about solutions with your non-dominant hand. This will access your subconscious which holds all the answers.
Walk your dog or pet your cat – these are great stress relievers.
Get exercise – it releases pent up emotions and stress.
Spend time in nature – very healing and relaxing.
If none of that motivates you to slow down, try this as your mantra: A balanced person is a more productive person. It’s true and certainly motivates me. A technique to help me get more done? I’m all for it.
Subscribe to and follow this blog. I regularly write about things that slow us down and de-stress us. In fact, I’ll give you more tips in my next post.[quote]“I have never heard of a man who said on his deathbed, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Ann Landers[/quote]
Think that one over and let me know how it goes.
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Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com