For some lucky people, work brings genuine joy. They feel in demand, satisfied with themselves and have time to devote time to family and hobbies. Psychologists call them individuals with harmonious passion. But there is another, more dangerous passion, called obsession. Its victims experience an uncontrollable desire to do work, feel the conflict between their passion and other areas of life. From the collection “HBR Guide. Life Balance” learned how dangerous workaholism is, how to recognize it in yourself and what to do about it.
What is workaholism?
The term “workaholic” was coined in 1971 by psychologist Wayne Oates, who called the “uncontrollable need for continuous work” an addiction. Workaholics are characterized by an internal compulsive drive, they constantly think about work, feel guilt and anxiety when they are inactive. Workaholism is often inextricably linked to overtime work, but the two are different: you can work overtime and not be obsessed with work, and vice versa: think about it all the time, working only 35 hours a week or less.
Workaholism, unlike overtime, is bad for us. This was confirmed by the authors’ study. They found that workaholics, whether or not they work long hours, are more likely to experience health problems and have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. They also showed a higher need for recovery. They experienced sleep problems, increased cynicism, greater emotional exhaustion, and a greater tendency to depression — in contrast to employees who, although they worked late, did not have a tendency to workaholism.
It is difficult for workaholics to psychologically break away from the process. And constant obsession with something is often accompanied by anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Stress in workaholics is often chronic, resulting in relentless wear and tear on the body. Here is a brief explanation of why this happens: to cope with stress, the body activates several systems (eg, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine). Imagine that you have a deadline for an important project. As you approach it, your levels of stress hormones (such as cortisol), pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (such as interleukin-6), and blood pressure will likely increase. But after the project is delivered, they will return to their original indicators, known as “target values”. If you are overworked at work and constantly push the system beyond its boundaries, then the setpoints may change. High blood pressure will become chronic and cortisol levels will remain outside the normal range.
Read more: BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH A SUPPLEMENT MANUFACTURER
Quiz: Are You Obsessed With Your Job?
How do you know if your passion for work is obsessive? There are clear warning signs in this regard. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.
- Do you have enough energy? Are you passionate about your work? Do you enjoy doing what you do?
- Is your self-determination limited to work? If you imagine yourself as a pie, how big a piece will your work take?
- How positive is your self-image? Obsessive passion is born from a negative self-image, which includes automatic subconscious associations between one’s self and the concept of “unpleasant”.
- Is your internal monologue positive when you work? Is it filled with words like “I want”, “I can” and “I can’t wait”? Or is it dominated by words such as “should”, “should” and “have to”?
- Can you stop working whenever you want? Recent studies have shown that online gamers with harmonious passion experience positive emotions while playing, while gamers with obsessive passion experience more negative emotions both when playing and when not being able to play. Are you forced to work even when you really don’t want to?
- Do you fall into a state of flow? Do you feel like time has receded into the background, or do you constantly feel the weight of responsibility on your shoulders? Flow is a pleasurable experience, while obsessive involvement keeps you from relaxing.
If you answer these questions with a solid “no” – these are signs that your passion may be obsessive, not harmonious.
4 recommendations for workaholics
If you consider your level of obsessive passion as too high, resort to the recommendations below.
- Schedule real breaks. Help yourself to let go of your work obsession by scheduling other activities throughout the day (like having lunch with a friend or taking a break from the gym). Set aside time after work or on weekends for family, friends and your hobbies. Having a schedule will help you stay on top of your commitments.
- Don’t bring work home. If you can afford it, make it absolutely impossible to access work after leaving the office. Don’t bring your laptop home. Leave papers on the table. Maintain separate email accounts for home and work, and don’t check work email when you’re away from the office (configure to send appropriate notifications if necessary). An obsessive passion is just a bad habit, and habits can be broken.
- Change your work mindset. Imitate the mindset of a person with harmonious passion until you really are. For example, turn the thoughts “should” and “should” into “want” and “wish.” You will feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually the obsessive mindset will dissipate, as will the behavior associated with it. A recent study showed that changing articulated thought patterns can increase self-esteem and harmonious passion.
- Find a new hobby. Often, putting too much of your own resources into one project is a sign of negative self-esteem. The more extra activities outside of work contribute to a positive sense of self, the less space in your ego will occupy the “thirst for overproduction” and the lower your chances of burnout.