Counselling London Psychotherapy - Workaholism, Work Addiction, Work Life Balance, Work Stress - Counsellor London Psychotherapist
Work Life Integration, Worried We Are Workaholic, Work Addiction
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.Confucius
Our work can be rewarding, challenging, creative, meaningful, sociable and give us a sense of purpose or a buzz at times. We may enjoy the competitiveness and our work can motivate us, yet the work we do is not the "be all and end all" - it is not who we are and we may have ended up primarily defining ourself by our work. We may also worry about work, putting all our efforts & energy into it, becoming too dependent on it, maybe getting lost in its relentlessness, losing our self in the process, as if it becomes all-consuming, prioritising work above everything else, as if we have become a workaholic, abandoning ourselves. We may have put our career first, before everything else. When busy, personal things can get put to the side, and over time, adversely affect us and others around us. Buried in our work, our very self has stopped fully living in other aspects. The workaholic inside of us may be trying to achieve so much at work, that we can lose our sense of all of who we are, other than our work identity. Work can be a refuge from everything else that is happening (or not happening) for us. We may allow work to dominate everything. We may have sacrificed too much. Throwing everything into our work, as if we are on a treadmill, we may have become absent at home, socially stagnant or struggle relating. Working hard, over-committed at work, we may struggle to commit to other important things we value. Having a strong work ethic, we can become so fixated or wrapped up in our work that we are not mentally present elsewhere, living a more rounded life. We may now want to seek various goals important to us, other than financial or work satisfaction. Some of us may experience our work as both meaningful, enjoyable, yet hollow (which may point to what we are experiencing inside), with little joy. Inside we may have chosen not to make time for ourself, postpone our full life, as if putting it on hold for later on. Investing in our life as a whole, not just our work or business, may be challenging...
Successful People Overly focused on work, striving to be successful, there can be a cost to our achievements. Selfemployed people, or those running their own company or business (especially if it is "our own little baby"), are particularly at risk as may others, who work on their own. People who travel much or work from home may have their own challenges, as the boundaries between work & life can become blurred. The challenges of balancing our work & the rest of our life touches many of us, including well educated, successful, creative, financially stable people at the top of their professions. Our work status, money, power may no longer be enough, even if we are admired. Our measures of success, sense of worth, may no longer work. Insecure, our esteem may be solely based on our work identity or achievements, which can give us a professional self-esteem, yet this may no longer be enough for us. We can be so strongly wrapped up in our work, that who we actually are can be overlooked. Empty or lonely inside, we may have a sense of despair, unreality, not being who we really are, or truly present. We may have lost our focus, humility or real self along the way. Alongside our work addiction, we may have turned to other unhelpful habits or addictions.
The Cost & Price We May Pay Some of us may work for our own, others enjoy the buzz and camaraderie, tireless striving and competitiveness, sense of accomplishment, recognition and status, which can be fulfilling and bring rewards, as can being at the creative cutting edge. Yet we may become obsessed with status, recognition, reward. Achievement driven, as we expend great energy & time in our work, we may have a sense of something missing in our life. And there may be costs to us and others:
- Working harder, achieving more, may no longer be enough to fill our void
- We may experience alienation or disconnection inside of us
- We may be stuck in doing - lost our being
- Even when we've achieved what we wanted, we may still experience emptiness inside, living our life devoid of meaning, deep fulfilment
- We may have allowed our work to define who we are, have a crisis of identity, asking "What other role would I have, other than my work?", as if our sense of worth is solely based on the work we do. We may have lost our sense of who we are, what really matters to us, what we value beyond earning more money.
- A part of us may yearn for space, yet another part may be fearful of this
- Hijacking other areas of our life, we may delay gratification, put work ahead of having fun, as if we will get to the destination one day
- Getting all our satisfaction only from our work, we may have ignored other aspects of our personality - our body, feelings, mind, sexuality, spirituality
- We may find little time for selfnurturing (as if our self has been forgotten, overlooked or neglected)
- We can block things out, shut down things inside
- Abandoning us, avoiding taking responsibility for our feelings, fleeing from them. Inside we may feel sad, empty, lonely
- We may become stuck in our head or depressed
- Constantly having goals at work can be exhausting, with no time off to properly relax & unwind, we may find it difficult to switch off
- We may be restless inside, yet not know why, as if something is missing. Existential concerns may also arise as can the need to live to our full potential.
- Our behaviour may have become machine-like or obsessive, e.g. constantly checking emails, messages, texts, etc
- We may have become emotionally and physically drained, irritated, grumbling to those around us
- We may have patterns of crashing, exhaustion, illness, after putting so much effort in
- Our other personal needs - how we look after us & others, may have been overlooked
- We may take on a lot of responsibility at work, yet overlook our responsibilities outside of work
- We may procrastinate in our personal life and have become lost
- We may also neglect other passions, interests, leisure & pleasure, our joy, vitality, physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, time for personal reflection, sense of community or spiritual growth, whatever that means for us
- Our general wellbeing and those close to us may have been overlooked (see below)
Overworking - Effect On Relationships We may enjoy work and thrive on pressure, speed & deadlines, love our work, yet struggle with love in relationships. Having little time for anything else other than work will affect our relationship or marriage. We may be so committed to work, we are not committed in our relationship. We can feel alive & empowered at work, yet disempowered outside work. We may for example work hard, trying to provide so we can make our partner happy, yet it doesn't always help. Some of us may have a work addiction (this can be especially true of men), be so hooked on making money that meaningful contact with others may be the price. Internalising things, we may usually be too busy to respond & connect with others around us, our partner, children, meaningful friendships. We may struggle with intimacy or being vulnerable. Our dedication to work can replace intimacy in relationships, friendships and human interactions. If we are in a relationship, our partner may feel increasingly estranged from us. Others may use work to avoid relationships.
Overworking & "Addiction" To Work The narrative that we tell ourself, vows we made a long time ago (maybe inherited from our parents), may affect our attitude towards our work now. In a competitive world, fully committed to work, some of us can be so busy earning money, climbing up the career ladder, or indeed having made it to the top, that we overlook other important aspects. Struggling to divert our energies elsewhere, we may have a constant urge to work, may be feeling guilty if we don't. We may constantly worry about work, finding it hard to switch off, as if we are on "auto-pilot". We may have few resources left to do other things, even think about other things. Our strong work ethic can for some indicate a struggle to slow down and relax. Others may try to please so much, taking on all tasks, doing anything to avoid difficult conversations, that we become overburdened at work. Martyr-like, we may have a subtle or harsh task master inside of us, that is so work driven we don't know how to stop. Keeping our head down at work, we may forget to hold our head high outside of work, as if we are burying our head in the sand. Managing our time for things that matter may be important for us. Some of us may use our work to cover up other parts of our life - possible uncomfortable dilemmas, thoughts, emotions, etc. or a part of our history we want to forget. Lost without our work identity, or thinking about work, we may be lonely, alone inside, filling up our sense of emptiness by overworking. It can be as if we are addicted to work.
Control & Perfectionism A need for perfection & being over-demanding of ourselves can affect our work-life balance, as we strive to prove things, get things right. This affects our esteem. We can set up work scenarios, making us indispensable, or believe we are. Pushing us or others, we may struggle to have a standard which is simply good enough. We may never be quite satisfied, as if we have an impatient taskmaster inside of us, nagging us to move on to the next work challenge, without taking time out or enjoying what we accomplished. Binge working, it may seem as if we are on an endless conveyor belt of productivity (which frequently decreases when stressed), yet may feel empty inside, so we fill our emptiness up with more work. Yet in some aspects we may be out of control, so our need to be in control may come out through our need to work so hard or long hours. We may continuously be pushing to achieve more, instead of doing well, enjoying the journey along the way. The workaholic in us will always prioritise work over & above everything else, affecting us & others around us. "How can I sometimes ask for help?", "How can I take control, prioritise me over work?" - may be questions we ask.
Unreasonable Expectations, Unrealistic Workloads Work stress can affect us all, especially when we are continuously trying to meet onerous targets, where we feel unsupported by our manager or employer. Sometimes we (or our employers) may have unreasonable expectations. For many of us, the volume of work we have may never be completed. We may also want to review our personal expectations. We may have an unrealistically high workload & receive minimal support. We may be expected to be available and on-call whenever contacted. We may persuade ourseIf that once we complete the task, we can then take it easy. Things always seem to take longer than we have imagined, and other tasks are queueing up behind. Our work activities never seem to end. We may also be overwhelmed with a list of so many things to do, believing we have to do it all ourselves. We may struggle to accept that we can't complete everything, which can create our own work stress as we work more, work late, work harder. Work can often seem like a bottomless pit as our "to do list" never shrinks. Our work-life balance has become out of kilter, and we can become addicted to work. We can become increasingly miserable. We may be in a work crisis situation. This can affect our relationships, physical health, emotional wellbeing & psychological health. Keeping busy may also be a means of distraction, so we don't have to come up against our anxiety, despair or other uncomfortable emotions.
Work-Life Balance Work-life balance - leading a full life other than our work, can be an easy concept, yet challenging to achieve. Some of us may over-commit ourselves at work or become overburdened with responsibilities. (For some of us prioritising and focusing our work, finding different ways to wisely manage our time, respond to interruptions, distractions may be important.) There is always work to do, and usually too much. In a habit of working long hours, we may as well continue - we know nothing else. We may tell ourselves or others that we really must stop working so hard, yet never get round to it. We may believe working less or asking for help is a sign of weakness. Some may believe we have a work-life balance, yet in reality we binge work until we drop or collapse. It is only then we take a rest. With our workaholic tendencies, we may need help knowing and setting our limits, and finding a balance between work and our non-working life, so our professional crisis does not spill over into our personal life. We may struggle to make time for pleasurable tasks or take breaks, and it is only after we take time to enjoy life, relax & rest that we are refreshed. Our quality of work and attitude to work usually improves. Counselling & psychotherapy can help with our own work-life balance problems & "workaholism".
Being Driven Stress, fear, anxiety may be a huge driver for some. Things may be racing in our head and we may be like a coiled spring at work. We may use work as a distraction from the rest of our life, which we now may want to examine. Some of us can be obsessive - almost addicted to getting things done, achieving things (see also Control & Perfectionism). Insecure inside, fear of poverty, failure can drive us, as we focus more and more on our work. Yet unfulfilled inside, being work-driven, can at a superficial level keep us safe from any uncomfortable feelings, some of which may go back years (see also Relationship Style, Attachment Patterns), as we have learnt to shut them down. So work focused at times we can be good at thinking things yet not feeling things - using work to numb our emotions. We may be a success at work, yet long for inner peace, a successful relationship & sense of joy. We may constantly think or even dream about work, being so work driven, "married to work" or indeed addicted to work, that we overlook who is driving - ourself. Work driven, it can be hard to listen to our intuition, find a space for us, take some downtime, time to learn about ourselves, be connected to our purpose.
Work Ambition Being ambitious at work can be our driving force, enabling us to progress, be creative & move up the ladder. Yet if we become overly ambitious at work, it can end up controlling or ruining our life. We may have become obsessed with work, envious of others' achievements, progression. Career driven, we can become hooked on our work, or need to succeed - always giving more. For others, our ambition may point us towards meaning.
Internet Working A lot of us spend much of the time in front of a computer, not only at work, but also in our leisure time. We may have become dependent on the internet more than we realise at the cost of enriching our life in other ways.
Work Related Stress, Stress At Work Sometimes we can be a "work addict" alone, and other times we can be a part of a group of "work addicts", refusing to acknowledge the problem. Our work can be pressurising at times, yet no one can make us feel pressured without our permission and it can be a real challenge to take responsibility for the pressure we feel. We may struggle with balancing pressure and stress. Behaving like a workaholic, some of us may struggle to switch off from our work preoccupation. We may become a slave to technology, unable to switch off our devices, allowing our work to creep in to our leisure time. Worrying about work may also affect our sleep. Stress at work, ill health & burnout can result. Understanding our strengths and vulnerabilities when we are under pressure can support us, so we look after our wellbeing. Our work stress or burn-out may manifest as:
- Tiredness, permeating all aspects of our life
- Exhaustion, which can creep up on us without noticing
- Taking time off work for physical or emotional reasons, maybe depression
- Reduced productivity
- Diminishing pride in our work
- No longer enjoying what we do
- Cynicism towards customers, employer
- Lacking empathy
- Escaping into unhelpful habits or addictions
- Sleep deprivation or oversleeping, poor time keeping
- Not looking after ourselves, e.g. appearance, exercise, diet, etc
- Neglecting others, e.g. our partner, maybe taking it out on them
- Being less aware of risk - putting us & others in danger
Unmotivated At Work Some of us may be bored or unmotivated, unfulfilled or unsatisfied or dread going into work - that Monday morning feeling, which can affect our moods & relationships with others. We may be out of touch with what inspires us. Alienated, we may be spending so much of our energy & time at work, that we have become resentful of the costs to us and others. The counselling can explore these effects and options, alongside our attitude and how we use our time when working.
Counselling For Work-Life Balance Work orientated, we may need to take the pressure off us, stop trying to do it all or do everything to a very high standard, prioritising the most important aspects of our work, productively targeting our time and efforts. This may mean questioning what we really need to be doing, giving up doing certain things. Others may want to consider delegating or negotiating changes to our current role. Changing and implementing our goals and plans may support us. Putting limits on the time we allocate to work, knowing the times of day we are most productive, the times of day we need to be left alone and articulating this may be important. We may also want to consider leaving our work thoughts where they belong at work, clearing our mind. Getting enough exercise, sleep, connecting with family and friends, having a life outside of work, can paradoxically enable us to work better and it can be challenging for some of to make this commitment to our personal life. The counselling and psychotherapy can also consider other "healthy obsessions" like our passions and interests, so it is not either our work or life which flourishes, but both - work life balance. Our work can importantly give us some structure. We may want to get back or reconnect to our own structure. Counselling & psychotherapy can help us explore our intrinsic worth & enquiring whether we want to structure our self around our work or vice versa.