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Changing Lifestyles, Changing Habits: Workaholic Perspective this Summer

separator 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.
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