Truth be told, workaholics tend to never let up, even when their body is begging for mercy, and they often end up at the shrink’s office as a result! So before you have to stretch out on the psychiatrist’s couch, adopt a healthier lifestyle and watch your productivity grow.
First of all, what exactly is a workaholic?
Like its ethanol-fuelled cousin, “workaholism” is an addiction. A workaholic is someone who is addicted to work and even willing to give up vacations, family time and leisure activities just to “get ahead.” But a workaholic isn’t the same as a hard worker, who still knows how to find a healthy work-life balance.
Micro-doses of LSD—yup, you read right—are now all the rage in Silicon Valley, and they’re becoming increasingly popular here at home. Apparently, in tiny doses, this psychedelic-trip-inducing drug that was all the rage in the 60s can help boost concentration and performance at work. The catch, and there is one, is that getting the dose right is tricky, not to mention that no studies have been done on the drug’s long-term effects on the brain and emotional health. The fact that people are willing to take an illicit and potentially dangerous drug just to perform better at work says a lot about the pressure they feel to be productive.
Work addiction is often perceived as a reflection of our motivation and dedication to our professional life. The work ethic and overachieving are praised in today’s world. With new technologies, many companies expect employees to answer calls, text messages and emails outside working hours, so the once clear line between our professional and personal lives is becoming increasingly blurred. There are so many workaholics these days that the problem has been dubbed the “addiction of the century.”
A group of researchers at Norway’s Bergen University has developed an addiction scale for workaholism based on seven key symptoms , some of which you may recognize:
- You’re always trying to find more time to work
- You spend more time at work than expected
- You work to diminish your feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression
- You’ve been advised to slow down at work, but you don’t
- Not being able to work stresses you out or makes you feel guilty
- You sacrifice physical activity, pastimes and leisure activities to work
- You work so much that your health is suffering
If you answer “often” or “always” to any of these statements, you might be a workaholic. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel guilty when not doing anything?
- Do you take time to have fun with friends, without any link to your career?
- Do you get around eight hours of sleep per night?
- How much coffee or other stimulant (or how many mini-doses of LSD) do you need?
- Do most of your human interactions take place on-screen or in the flesh?
Try this: See if you can replace stimulating beverages with water and try not to look at your phone after work hours. In fact, you shouldn’t have your phone, computer or laptop with you during meals, when spending time with family, during your kid’s hockey practice or on your vacations. Is thinking about work central to your well-being? Ask yourself this: Do you dream about being on vacation when you’re at work or do you dream about work when you’re on vacation?
ADHD and workaholism
In the above-mentioned Norwegian study , the researchers showed that people who meet the criteria for being a workaholic also tend to meet those of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), as well as anxiety and depressive disorders. Simply put, maybe it’s time you went out and played?
The most ironic part is that workaholics are less productive than people who lead a more balanced lifestyle. When you work all the time, the stress your body is subject to affects concentration and work performance. People who don’t take vacations, breaks or time for leisure activities, or who don’t sleep enough, are unproductive and end up seeing their creativity dwindle.
Physical manifestations and lifestyle changes
If you ignore your body’s SOS messages, you’ll have to deal with the long-term physical effects of all the adrenaline coursing through your veins during times of stress: elevated cholesterol, susceptibility to blood clots, fatty deposits in your arteries... the list goes on. You can also develop other health issues, like chronic backache, stomach ulcers, heart problems, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, chronic fatigue and depression.
In short, before your body gives you a stark reality check, give some balance to your lifestyle.
1. Adapting your diet. Avoid consuming too many stimulants (think coffee and energy drinks) and opt for foods that help fight stress and anxiety :
- Asparagus, for its high folic acid content
- Avocados, for their vitamin B, monounsaturated fats and potassium
- Blueberries, for their antioxidants and vitamin C
- Raw unsalted almonds, for their vitamin B2 and E content: a quarter cup as a snack or some almond butter with breakfast
- Oranges, for their vitamin C, which lowers the level of the stress hormone, cortisol
- Fatty fish like salmon, for the omega-3 essential fatty acids, which promote cognitive function; omega-3 is available as a supplement for those who don’t like fish
- Spinach, for its high zinc content
- Turkey, which makes us produce serotonin, the “happy and relaxed” hormone
- Oatmeal, and make it the real stuff, not the instant microwave variety. Natural oats contain more fibre and have a calming effect. In fact, flowering oat, in supplement form, is also effective in preventing burnout.
- Replace coffee and other stimulating drinks with water, herbal teas or coffee substitutes. But if you’re used to drinking a lot of stimulating drinks, don’t go cold turkey: wean yourself off them slowly.
2. Exercise. Everyone knows it: exercise is good for you. For workaholics looking to boost performance and efficiency, there’s nothing better than physical activity to help you reach new heights. The effects are well documented: exercise is not a waste of time and it applies to everyone. You can make exercise a leisure activity and socialize a bit while you’re at it!
3. Relax! Whether you prefer yoga, tai chi or deep breathing, adopting some form of relaxation exercise will help you better manage your patience levels and stay calm during workplace conflicts.
4. The brain is made to focus on one thing at a time. Effective multitasking is a fallacy, resulting only in a bunch of variously incomplete tasks and an ever-growing to-do list that only adds to your stress. You’re better off setting priorities and tackling tasks one at a time.
5. Pencil in some down time: A night out with your significant other, a bike ride with the kids or happy hour with friends (not coworkers!). Honour these commitments as you do your work-related ones.
6. Disconnect. Completely. Start with 30 minutes a day, and enjoy every minute!
If you think your employer will think less of you if you do, you might want to point out that the founder of Burton Snowboards, as well many other successful entrepreneurs, understand the importance of down time: if you ask them, you can’t perform well if you don’t have fun too. Jake Burton spends a third of his time on the slopes ...
Nature to the rescue!
In addition to oats and omega-3, passion flower is a powerful relaxant that helps with nervousness, agitation and insomnia. Rhodiola helps you stay focused, even during stressful periods, while Bio-Strath, which contains the full vitamin B complex, has been shown to support cognitive function and lessen the health impacts of stress.
There’s no reason to feel guilty about doing and thinking about something other than work. Before you hit a wall, take people’s advice and learn to recognize the signals your body is sending.