My father works four jobs. My mother works two. At my peak, I worked four jobs, but now I only work two. Some might describe my family as hardworking, which is usually a positive adjective; others might use the more negative word “workaholic” to describe us and the 10 million other Americans who work over 60 hours a week.
A workaholic is someone who compulsively works long and hard hours. While it can be assumed that a workaholic likes working, sometimes, the worker just feels compelled to do it. People have bills to pay and families to feed, so it’s increasingly common to work longer hours, either at the same job or at multiple jobs.
The American culture is one that fuels workaholics. We work long hours, sometimes even working after hours by taking calls or answering work emails. We work on the weekends and through lunch. We work during our vacation. In fact, while the average American worker gets about two weeks of vacation, 34% of workers don’t take a single day, and from those that do take some time off, 30% say they worry about work while they’re trying to relax.
A workaholic works harder because they feel guilty if they don’t give over 100%, and this pattern of behavior contributes to several physical, mental, and social consequences. Physically working yourself too hard will lead to increased levels of stress, which strains your body (heart attacks and strokes, in the most extreme scenarios) and can lead to burnout.
Many workaholics also complain of having migraines, insomnia, high blood pressure, and weaker immune systems. Because workaholics like to eat at their desks, they’re usually overweight and their meals have poor nutritional quality from being prepackaged, high in caffeine or sugars, or coming from a fast food joint, since those meals are quick, easy, and give you some quick energy.
Mentally, the stress from working too much actually causes a decrease in productivity, as well as creativity and problem solving. Workaholics are also at a higher risk for alcoholism, depression, irritability, and anxiety.
Socially, workaholics don’t spend much time with their friends or their families since they prioritize work. In fact, the divorce rate for workaholics is a lot higher than the average.
You can take actions to avoid the dangers of being a workaholic, like taking a vacation or decreasing your workload, to achieve your work-life balance. Set time limits and create a schedule for your day, like blocking out eight hours for work, an hour for dinner, an hour for family time, etc.
Try exercising to pump up those good endorphins and keep your health in check. A personal practice I use is not checking my school or work email until after lunch. That way I can work hard in the morning without being distracted, then catch up on correspondence after a nutritious lunch and productive morning.
If you feel like you’re working too hard, simply take a break and avoid that dreaded burnout. While working might seem like the best way to solve money problems or get ahead in the world, your health and well-being takes priority (and honestly, the side effects of “workaholism” lead to decreased productivity).
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
Also published on Medium.