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We live in a culture that lauds anyone who appears to have a strong work ethic. Meanwhile, workaholism is a real and common mental health condition. It may be part of another disorder but it can also be a stand-alone addiction. Meanwhile, in a tough economy, plenty of folks find it necessary to take on extra shifts or a second job. So, how do we know if someone is workaholic or simply working long hours?

Understanding the difference is important for your health. It’s typically best to consult with a professional but there are also some basics you can discover on your own.

What Defines a Workaholic?

A workaholic always puts in long hours. It’s not just about impressing the boss or getting raises. Instead, as mentioned above, it feels like an addiction. Here are some common traits of a workaholic:

  • They work alone: If anything, other people are seen as competitors.
  • It’s not about enjoying work: An athlete or musician may crave practice time. A workaholic may feel they have no choice.
  • It’s also not about productivity: Taking on an ever-increasing workload eventually reduces the quality of their output.
  • They burn out: Physical and mental strain is inevitable and often obvious to the people in their lives.

Other red flags to look for:

  • Perfectionism
  • Having no “free” time for hobbies or a social life
  • Others worry about you
  • You don’t feel fulfilled by your non-stop efforts

Am I Just a Hard Worker?

This is quite possibly the case. People gain satisfaction from certain types of work and will thus go the extra mile. However, unlike a workaholic, they:

  • Do not obsess over their work
  • Are not thinking about the job during non-work hours
  • Take an appropriate amount of rest

The goal is not to avoid breaking a sweat. It would just serve you better to practice moderation and keeps all aspects of your life in balance.

Can I Avoid Workaholism Even Though I Work Long Hours?

Yes, you can! It begins with recognizing your limits. Unless you are financially compelled to do so, set and enforce work-related boundaries. This includes emails and notifications when you are not at work.

Here are a few more tips to consider:

  • Don’t take your job home with you. Do you have a transition process/ritual between work/home?
  • Create a rich and fulfilling non-work life
  • Explore creative and artistic interests
  • Cultivate and indulge in new hobbies and interests
  • Work smarter instead of harder – have you ever heard this one? #SuperOriginal
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Don’t define your self-worth by your work performance. Imagine you’re not an American for a bit…..

Practice Daily Self-Care

Prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Do this by focusing on areas like:

  • Sleep: Maintain regular patterns as to when you go to bed, what time you wake up, and how many hours of sleep you get per night
  • Eating Habits: Make healthy choices and avoid using food or drink as self-medication. Just switching to light beer isn’t enough…..
  • Exercise: Engage in some kind of physical movement or exercise each day but do not turn this into a workaholic outlet
  • Relaxation Techniques: This could be yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, mellow music, or anything that reduces the urge to work and perform.  Start listening to Seals & Croft…

What If I’m Still Not Sure If I’m a Workaholic?

It can be a fine line between healthy and unhealthy labor. If the above information hasn’t fully clarified your personal place on that line, we should talk. Connecting with an experienced therapist is a proven way to differentiate between productive and counterproductive patterns. Your sessions will serve as an exploration of what motivates you to think and behave as you do.

I invite you to reach out soon to set up a free and confidential consultation. Let’s get to the root of your work-related life.

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.