I confess—I am a workaholic, and I’ve dealt with it for years. I just kept moving, busy, busy, busy and thought that was normal.
Here’s a definition in case you’re wondering:
A workaholic is a person who works compulsively. While the term generally implies that the person enjoys their work, it can also alternately imply that they simply feel compelled to do it. There is no generally accepted medical definition of such a condition,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workaholic
It all started in 1982 when I went back to Colorado State University to get my BA degree in English, my minor in Spanish with an Education concentration. Sounds pretty normal—four-year goal to finish it! Sounds reasonable!
But I was 28 years old, recently divorced and working full time as a beautician. I did get financial aid in the form of grants and loans, but I worked part time at the beauty salon to supplement my income the first year. I did try to do some babysitting that year, but having never had children, parents thought I should know what to do with their babies, and I didn’t, so that fizzled out quickly, thank God!
At the end of my freshman year, Dr. Smith who became my favorite English professor, asked me if I’d be interested in being a mentor in the English department computer lab. I was asked because of my grade point average. I had never touched a computer before in my life. The interview went well–we had a lot in common, both had rural backgrounds—me ranching and him farming. So, I got the job!
So, for rest of my three years at the CSU, I went to school full-time, worked at the beauty salon three days a week and as a mentor in the computer lab, except for my last semester when I did my student teaching, I only worked at the beauty salon on Saturday’s that semester and I stopped the mentoring position. Wow!! And the semester I carried 18 credit hours, I had a 4.0 grade average!
It all started then—working all the time became natural.
Then as a new teacher in Denver, Colorado and then Raton, New Mexico, it was easy for me to continue this lifestyle: I taught English and regularly worked until 10:00 each night, grading papers and preparing for class the next day.
Then as the years unfolded in Raton, I became the cheerleading sponsor which demanded I attend basketball and football games after work. I also was the Student Council sponsor which required more after school meetings and my time.
When I moved to Albuquerque, I chaired the Technology committee for five years at the first school. This was the time that local area networks were coming in and we did the work ourselves. Often, I was teased that my committee was the hardest working one.
At another school, I had a computer club after school. At this time, I got really active in square dancing and volunteered whenever asked.
Over the last twenty-eight years in Albuquerque, my volunteerism in the square dance world rocketed: chairman of a national convention, published a quarterly newsletter, published a booklet of national square dance events, chaired two square dance festivals off-and-on, a board member for the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, ad nauseum!
In 1992, I volunteered to be on the committee that ran the yearly reunion for the small school I attended in southeastern Colorado and continued to do it.
The point is I’ve overdone it for years! For several years now, I have lamented regularly to friends that I was a workaholic and didn’t know how to stop! I didn’t want to quit any of my pet projects—I loved them all equally. So, I just kept going—I didn’t know how to quit.
But last year, I finally realized I needed to quit some of my obligations, so I let the reunion committee know that this year would be my last. Many of my friends at home don’t believe I’m really quitting, but I am!
With that resignation, I realized something: I could do it. All I needed to do was do it.
Since then, I have given up the chairmanship of one square dance festivals, so I’m whittling away the list.
What helped me finally face the reason for my constant activity was a revelation. I am an incest survivor, and my little girl believed if I kept moving, no one could get me again—that’s pretty amazing! The hypervigilant constant frenzy felt comfortable and safe in the midst of the chaos it created in my life.
As I let go of these commitments, today I celebrate all the work I did. Workaholics are the type of people you want on any committee you’re on—we love to do our work and yours too! I met wonderful people all over the United States doing what I did, but today I want to be able to say, “I’m a relax-aholic instead!”
I’m afraid my current health issues may be the result of the many years of stress I’ve placed on myself. I’ve had a stomach problem since March, and I’ve had to step back and say, “No!” often. We’ve missed several family functions and dance events, and I hate that! I’m so used to going, going, going, but I can’t right now!
The results of that have been many nights at home with my dear husband, Lin, watching TV, soaking in our hot tub and not doing much—in some ways it feels so foreign, yet we’ve gotten into a routine and even my old cat, Jesse, loves it. In the evening after our hot tub time, Jesse perches up on the arm of the loveseat on my side, ready for the TV to go on and the two of us to sit there all evening with him! Usually we dance three to four times a week. We’ve been lucky to do one night currently.
I hope this information helps you if you share my concern about this problem. Here’s a list of seven criteria to assess the likelihood that an individual possesses a work addiction from Forbes:
1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If you answered with “often” or “always” to any of these points, you may be a workaholic. The study concluded that about 8.3% of the Norwegian workforce is addicted to work – other studies have suggested about 10% of the average population in other countries are workaholics.
Forbes also shared:
People identified as workaholics often ranked high in terms of these three personality traits:
Agreeableness – Workaholics are more likely to be altruistic, compliant and modest.
Neuroticism – Workaholics tend to be nervous, hostile, and impulsive.
Intellect/imagination –Workaholics are generally inventive and action oriented.
My parents taught me to work hard, but even my Mom worried about my excessive commitments. Don’t wait until you’re 65 to get this right! Start today, and I’d love to hear your comments.
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