Are you a workaholic?

Do you work too hard?

We can all recognise the workaholic in the office. He or she is the one who arrives first in the morning and leaves last at night; the person who never has a lunch break and rarely takes a holiday; the one who will work at weekends and is prepared to cancel a night out without thinking twice in short, the workaholic is obsessed with work.

Does any of this sound familiar? Could you be a workaholic? Although you may not have recognised the fact your friends and family may already be convinced.

If you are a workaholic, the chances are that you did not start out as such.  In fact, in the past, you may have been the first to suggest going out for a quick drink after work.

But becoming obsessed with your work can creep up on you. It could  be that your boss puts in more hours than anyone else so working overtime is expected and is no longer a one-off occurrence. And if you, like so many, have the possibility of redundancy looming over you it is easy to start equating job security with the number of hours you put in.

Workaholics could be suffering with stress

The unsavoury truth is that you may not realise that you are a workaholic until it begins to make you ill.    Workaholics notoriously avoid admitting that they are suffering from stress – being ‘worked’ makes them feel important and gives them a ‘high’.

When tensions and frustrations mount, workaholics merely redouble their efforts – they work even faster and put in even more hours. They push and push themselves until the unimaginable happens – their bodies finally give way and they have a breakdown or heart attack. Being able to cope with stress over a long period of time, workaholics begin to imagine that they are invincible. It is not uncommon for people who reach a stage of collapse to express surprise and say, ‘I’ve always coped well before.’ That, in a nutshell, is just the problem.

If you are a workaholic, you are not the only person who could end up suffering. Your family can pay a price for your behaviour too as it is they who have to take on extra responsibilities and carry out jobs that you should have done but avoided because you were at work. As a result, resentments and bitterness can boil over causing ructions and profound unhappiness.

To function effectively as a person, everyone needs time off work to relax and recharge their batteries.     Working extended hours in an emergency, for a short time, can be stimulating. But driving yourself at full pace for months or years, without really being aware of what you are doing to yourself and to others, is potentially dangerous.

Are you a workaholic?

Complete the questionnaire below as honestly as possible. From it, you will be able to determine whether or not work is taking over your life.

If you answer Yes to eight or more questions, you may be a workaholic and you need to make immediate changes to balance the amount of work and play in your life. Go to Part Two of Stress Management where you will find exercises to help you counteract this obsessive behaviour.

Stressor Yes No
Do you get up early, no matter how late you go to bed?
Do you work or read when you eat alone?
Do you make daily lists of things to do?
Do you find it difficult to 'do nothing'?
Are you energetic and competitive?
Do you work on holidays and weekends?
Can you work any time, anywhere?
Do you find it difficult to take holidays?
Do you dread retirement?
Do you really enjoy your work?

The hardy personality

It is a fact of life that some people are better at handling stress than others; some even seem to thrive on it! What is it that they have that perhaps you do not?

Actually, we need not one but three psychological qualities to help us become resilient to stress. These are termed the "Three Cs": commitment, control, and a desire for challenge. People who possess all three of these qualities are sometimes referred to as 'hardy' personalities.

Do any of these sound like you?

Commitment: You can accept challenges, yet still remain committed to both your job and your family life. You are active and keenly interested in life's opportunities. You identify the priorities in your life and commit yourself to those goals.

Control: You believe that you can influence your work and home environments. You take charge of your life and make positive choices to deal with stressful events.

Challenge: You see change as an opportunity or challenge - for you change is the spice of life. You believe that life always presents problems and that, once they have been challenged and resolved, you can easily move on to the next.

Hardy people are involved and dedicated; they are completely in command of their lives and change is not perceived as a threat but as a chance for improvement. Hardy personalities are less likely to fall ill than highly stressed people who feel powerless and unable to cope, have an aversion to change, and see security as the status quo. Hardy personalities are to be envied and in Part Two of Stress Management, you will find strategies to help you become 'hardy' and resistant to stress.

In the next section, we'll learn about the health hazards of stress.

The Health Hazards of Stress >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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