Many High Achieving Women become workaholics at some time in their lives. Workaholism is an addiction and similar to other addictions it helps us to cope, “numbs us out” and assists us to avoid dealing with deeply held emotions, beliefs and situations that are no longer serving us.
I will use an example from my own life. From a very young age it was important to achieve and by achieving I mean attaining tangible and measurable results such as “being the top in my class”, winning a race, getting high marks… That focus on achievement and on “DOING” carried into my adult life.
When I was pregnant and expecting my second child, my daughter, Sara, was just two. I had federal funding for a project, had five people working for me and my son was due part way through the project. I had maternity leave from my university teaching position, but was not able to lay off my project personnel for three months while I took maternity leave. My husband (of the time) was working on the other side of the world and though I had a nannie during the day, as soon as I arrived home from work, she left the house.
I went to bed thinking about work, awakened with work on my mind and put in full days running my project. My mind and body were constantly in motion. I still did aerobics classes throughout my pregnancy and swam, as that was part of my regular routine.
I went into labor at the project office. I finished a day’s work, went home, got the house ready and told my nanny I was in labor. My husband wasn’t yet home, was “in flight” and wasn’t due home for about 24 hours (as our son wasn’t expected for a few more days). I ended up communicating with a colleague who was in labor at the nearby Grace Hospital. Her husband was with her and when her labor slowed down she sent him over to accompany me to the hospital. I walked to the hospital with my friend’s husband, stopping frequently along the way, to breathe through contractions. You can imagine the scene. My membranes ruptured as we entered the emergency room.
I am happy to report that I had a healthy baby boy and one of my girlfriends who is a midwife came to coach me through David’s birth. My husband arrived home the next morning and rushed to the hospital to see his new son.
As I had one more class in my program to finish and still had employees, I took only two weeks off when I had David and then went back to work 20 plus hours a week. When my son was 5 weeks old I facilitated a workshop while my sister sat at the back of the room with David so that I could nurse him during breaks.
Reflecting on this time in my life I realize I was a CRAZY woman. I never thought that I could do anything differently and surprisingly managed to accomplish more than the average “bear” in a day! Yet at what cost?
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Though your story may be different, it likely has common elements.
It was not until a number of years later, that I began to think about balance and to incorporate tools and strategies into my life to assist me to relax, slow down and “smell the roses”. I believe it was my mother’s death of metastases from breast cancer that made me examine my life and commit to making positive changes. Now I am less driven by external achievements and more guided by consciously chosen activities, my own core values and my body’s wisdom. It took some time and effort and I know it is possible.
The first step is to assess whether or not you are addicted to work. Ask yourself the following questions. Do you:
- Go to bed thinking about work?
- Awaken in the night with work-related challenges swirling in your head?
- Wake up in the morning with work on your mind?
- Consistently work on weekends?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may be a workaholic. The first thing to do is to become consciously aware of these patterns in your life. The next is to realize you have a choice.
Do you want to continue as you are or would you like to create some positive changes in your life? e.g. not work on weekends, spend more quality time with family and friends, take more time for yourself relax, reflect and just be. If you decide to make some changes to work less it is important to have someone to support you during this transformative process. In the next post I will speak more about work/life balance and how you can create the life and work/business of your dreams, one that YOU design and love
Is work a priority in your life? Is it taking over? Are you interested in making some changes? Perhaps you were addicted to work in the past and made a conscious decision to make positive changes. It’s always great to hear from you. I invite you to share your comments and reflections below. Share the post with a friend if you think they might benefit and/or share it on social media.
I used to be a workaholic! I thought it was dedication. I ran my body into the ground and ended up in the hospital and almost died. Work went on without me. What a gift that was to discover even though my ego didn’t like it much.
It really often is life-changing moments that usually bring us into awareness. It’s too and we ever lost the sense of joy in the first place – hat a place to live from it is. 🙂
Wow! Yes, so many driven women I know have been burnt out, diagnosed with cancer and/or auto-immune disorders. Thanks for your openness and for sharing part of your journey. Great that you see the gift in your experience. I so agree with you that often life-changing moments (e.g. extreme illness or death of a loved one) make us aware of what is truly important to us.Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Oh thank God…I am not a work-a-holic. Don’t get me wrong, I like to work and most of my friends would tell you I’m type A. I remind everyone I’m a type A- When I leave work, I leave work at work. When I die, there will be no mention of me staying up til 3AM to finish a project, there will be no mention that I got in early and was the last to leave. Oh no. Nope. When I go on vacation I let everyone know I don’t have access to email or cell phones. There is no room for work on vacation. Unless I’m hiking in elevation and then there could be a lot of work…me huffing and puffing 🙂
I’m glad you’re not a work-a-holic anymore!!
Congrats to you for being so good at setting boundaries and keeping your life in balance! I do know alot of people who have trouble not working on vacations. It’s hard to believe yet it’s true. Many are addicted to technology as well as work. Appreciate your sense of humour. Yes, It’s great to be passionate about work and it’s important to have a balance between work and play (whatever that looks like for you).
Such an important post! I certainly traversed this territory. So appreciate your ideas for a more soulful approach.
Thanks for your honesty and thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.
Whew! I felt the overwhelm just reading about what you put yourself through! So glad you have lightened up and are giving yourself (and those closest to you) the gentle love of time!
Yes, it was indeed an intense time in my life! Thanks for your understanding and kind words.
Love this article Pamela. It’s one that I can use with my clients and also as a reminder to myself that my identity, roles or hats I wear are not who I really am-being. Thank you and feel free to friend me on Facebook. Namaste
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Happy you can use my post with your clients. You may also find my complimentary tips on Creative Work/Life Balance of interest. Sign up at http://creativelivingcommunity.com/ . Thanks for the offer to friend you on Facebook. Feel free to friend me as well at https://www.facebook.com/CreativeLivingCommunity .
I really resonate with this, having come from a family workaholic culture and loving work myself, probably too much. I have an academic background, too, and worry, as a mother and wife and feminist and advocate of natural family living, about what professional demands are doing to women, their health, and their families. It is so superb to have work and career choices, but often our self-care, personal wellness, or the needs of family members get pushed to the side. Such an important topic! We need a lot more national dialogue, and dialogue among women, and dialogue inside ourselves, about this.
Hi Chara, Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your passionate and open response. Yes, I do believe we often “inherit” our workaholic tendencies from our families. That is certainly the case for me. You are so right about the fact that women today have so many choices yet unfortunately our self-care, personal wellness, and relationships often suffer because of our strong focus on work. I so share your passion about the need for more dialogue on this topic. You may find my free article on Creative Work/Life Balance of interest. Sign up at http://creativelivingcommunity.com/
Well you seem to have been an extreme case but I so understand. I went back to work when my daughter was 5 weeks, although my boss wanted me back after three weeks. Yes I have always been a workaholic and during these months of transition, I feel that I am always working. Yet it is a balanced work that I am striving to find.. work at home and live a simple life. I know that I am in the process of change.
This post is something so many women should read because we do get caught up in our pattern of just doing all and being all. Unfortunately it comes with a heaviness that catches up with us. Very interesting insight!!!
Hi Mary, Thanks for your thoughtful comments and openness regarding your past and present situation. Good for you for moving toward a balanced and simple life! You may find my free article on Creative Work/Life Balance of interest at http://creativelivingcommunity.com/
I am happy to say I don’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about work! I know many people who do and it has to be exhausting. I have found that I need a healthy balance in my life – mentally, physically and spiritually. There are times I spend too much time on the computer working, then I remind myself to take a beach walk or a break. It’s important not to neglect your family to the exclusion of work – I see that take a toll on relationships. Balance is Key!
Hi Debra, Good for you for looking after yourself and knowing the importance of mental, physical and spiritual balance! Many people know about it but not so many practice it! Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
Great post! I am a recovering perfectionist and workaholic thankful to be on the other side! xx
Thanks Shann! Any tips you’d like to share about how you recovered? 🙂
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Hello, Thanks for your feedback. Would appreciate hearing what in particular you like about the site.
Thanks for sharing the info with your friends. Feel free to share on twitter or facebook. Warm Regards.
I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which too few people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.|
Hi, Happy you found the topic of interest. Indeed not enough people speak about this. I’m on a mission to get the message out and show people how they can create happy, healthy, fulfilling lives and learn to thrive instead of constantly driving themselves. warm Regards, Pam
It’s difficult to find well-informed people for this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks|
Hi, Happy you found the post of value. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Pam 🙂
Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that produce the most significant changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!|
Happy you found the post helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts 🙂