Changing Lifestyles, Changing Habits: Workaholic Perspective this Summer
Five o’clock is approaching, and most of your co-workers
are wrapping up for the day. You, on the other hand, expect to be in the office
a couple more hours to work a little more on a report that’s due next week, to
send a few e-mails and to get a jump on your work for tomorrow.
After you get home, it’s after 7:30. Your spouse got home a
while ago and is out with the kids now, at one of their games. You go into the
kitchen, grab some food, open your laptop to send a few more e-mails, then turn
on the television around 9:00. By 10:00, you’re falling asleep.
On the weekend, the kids want you to take them to the pool,
but you don’t have time because you think you should make some progress on a
project you’re working on. Your co-workers could be helping you with it, but you
think it’s easier to do it yourself.
Does this sound like you?
While being a workaholic might be great for your company
(although that’s debatable), it isn’t usually so great for your health. When
you’re constantly working—even if you enjoy that work—you’re taking on added
stress. And constant stress simply isn’t good for you—or your heart. Stress
causes the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to surge through your body. We need
these hormones to respond appropriately to true stressors in life, such as
sudden danger. But when they’re there all the time, they put a strain on your
heart and increase blood pressure and breathing rate.
Studies have shown that being a workaholic can have a
negative impact on your family life, and that it can decrease your satisfaction
with life in general.
Use the summer to slow down the pace
Very few of us can quit working, obviously, but there are
things you can do to slow the pace of your work life. Summer is a great time to
ratchet your work down a few notches because it’s a more relaxed season in
general. Here are some suggestions:
Try not to stay late at work every day. Naturally,
there are times when staying late is the only option. But if it seems like you
need to stay late every day, maybe it’s time to talk with your supervisor and
co-workers about the flow of work.
When you get home, find time to relax. This can come
in many different forms:
- If you have children, get outside with them for some
simple time together before dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything
super-organized. Throwing a ball, taking a walk, going for a quick swim if you
belong to a pool, sitting on the steps and talking about what they did during
the day….things like this help you unwind and get you out of work mode. They
also help you to realize there are lots of other things that are just as
important as your job.
- If you have a yard or balcony, sit outside in a
comfortable chair with a glass of ice cold water and lemon. Spend some time
reading a good book, listening to music or doing nothing at all but enjoying
being outside in nature.
- Take a bath before bed. Again, put on some soothing
music and simply soak and enjoy yourself.
Be sure to relax on the weekends. Weekends are a
time to unwind from the past week, refresh yourself for the week ahead and to
spend time with your family and friends. In other words, it’s a time to recharge
your batteries, which you can’t do if you spend all your time working.
- If you don’t already have an exercise activity you
enjoy, now’s the perfect time to start one. Walking, biking and swimming are
wonderful summertime exercises that get you outside and help reduce your
stress level. You can do these things with friends and family as well, which
add an element of fun to them.
- Get together with friends. If you have children and it’s
hard to go out, have people over for a cookout. You can even have entire
families over, and the kids can all play together.
It takes a conscious effort
It might not come naturally to you to take a more relaxed
approach, so you’ll have to make a conscious effort to do so. Re-think those
knee-jerk reactions to stay in the office too long, to send lots of e-mails at
night, to skip the time with the kids at the end of the day. Carry the more
relaxed you into the winter months as well, because the stress is just as hard
on you then.
The American Heart
Association; M. McGowan. Heart Fitness for Life. Oxford University Press,
New York, New York, 10016, 1997; F. Pashkow and C. Libov. The Women’s Heart
Book. Hyperion, New York, New York, 10023-6298, 2001.