It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that many people today, are simply “addicted” to work. Maybe this is even you?
There are many reasons people become addicted to work.
For some, work fills a void or emptiness they otherwise live with daily.
It feeds their ego and makes them feel important. This pride then becomes correlated with “happiness” in the worker’s mind and thus, creates a craving for this feeling more and more.
For others, work can become an escape from personal issues or problems.
It starts to seem like the only “safe space” a person can get away from everything that troubles or stresses them out. It acts as their “escape” from the real world. Therefore, they run to it more and more often, until this gets to be a habit more than anything else.
While both scenarios are understandable, neither is advisable. While a work addiction may seem to solve a problem – or fill a need – in the short-term, it isn’t a long-term solution. In fact, it usually creates more problems than it solves.
When a friend or loved one begins to exhibit the telltale signs of being addicted to work, it can drive a huge wedge in the relationship. Work begins to stand in the way of time together and often, serves as a substitute for real human interaction too. If carried on for too long, it can eventually be the cause of the relationship’s demise.
What do you do about a work addiction? How do you break it?
The first group – those who get their sense of worth from work – must start by redefining success.
It’s important to intentionally seek other ways to be proud of yourself. For example, spending quality time with family or friends makes all parties happier and even healthier. Or taking time for yourself – pampering or spoiling yourself now and then – is symbiotic and cyclical. It makes you feel more worthy when you treat yourself as worthy. Likewise, choose to refocus your attention on those things you should be proud of, and you will begin to experience those feelings of pride more often too.
Those who become addicted to work to escape from life have a tougher road ahead, but course correction is possible (of course!) for them, as well.
First, you must take an honest look at why you are doing this. Why is work your safe space? What are you running from and why? Make a conscious decision to face these problems. Are there aspects of your life you need to change, that you are using work to avoid addressing? This is not going to solve anything long-term. It is much healthier – and truthfully, necessary – to face these problems head on. While an addiction to work might be how you are escaping these issues now, it won’t help solve what led you to that point in the first place. Furthermore, those things are likely to get worse with the work addiction and thus, the escape route more dangerous too.
Here are some easy, incremental, ways to start breaking the work addiction once you’re ready:
- If you don’t already, start to take a lunch break with friends, away from the office.
- See if you can work from home one or more days a week (this time away starts to break the “hold” work has on you).
- Start a workout routine and make it an appointment you “can’t” break. Give yourself rewards for keeping this appointment daily for a week and come up with a “punishment” if you miss a day.
- Take a long weekend once a month for two or three months in a row. You’ll realize that nothing horrible happened by taking time away and doing it in the future, becomes easier.
- Stop working on weekends or your days off.
- Take up a hobby outside the office. If you don’t have one already (that you’ve likely been neglecting), try out one a week until you find something that “takes.”
- In really nasty cases of work addiction, it’s imperative that you take a long vacation—at least a week but ideally, two. This works similarly to getting rid of any other bad habit—you have to break the cycle to break the habit.
By taking a good, long, honest, look at what led you to this point – and then taking real steps to fix the problem – you have a strong hope of correcting the issue before it becomes worse. Or before other relationships get more damaged in the process.