Are you overworking? How to recover from workaholism

By Morgen Henderson

Work addiction drains your mental and physical health. Left untreated, workaholism sabotages your creativity, leadership, and productivity. It’s dangerous to ignore the signs of work addiction or justify it with “At least I’m getting stuff done!” The fact is, you’re getting burned out and falling behind. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be working so much. It’s okay to take time off.

Like any other addiction, you don’t cure workaholism; you manage it. Here are strategies for keeping a good work-life balance.

Turn off the tech

One reason it’s tough to turn work off is because tech keeps us tethered to it. Emails, texts, calls, and video conferences demand our attention while away. Adopt good tech habits like charging your phone at night outside your bedroom. Commit to one tech-free weekend per month. Set up an “out of office” reminder that provides emergency contact info. Head to the woods or another remote area where there’s no signal.

Technology offers us too many options and too many ways to react to problems. That’s how we become available 24/7. Cut the cord on tech. Trade your addiction to technology for an addiction to peace of mind. Even C-level executives know it’s important to take a vacation, unplug from work and get away from the daily grind.

Hit the gym or yoga studio

Schedule regular exercise or yoga into your busy week. This will be a good excuse to leave work behind for an hour or so. Workaholics are prone to stress, anxiety, and insomnia. All these factors make it more likely you’ll relapse into working too much. Physical exercise like yoga, cardio, or weight training releases dopamine. This “happy hormone” helps you combat stress. Hitting the gym boosts your energy, improves your sleep, and reduces your anxiety.

Schedule breaks

If you’re a workaholic, you’re heavy into schedules and time management. Use that talent and experience to your advantage. Studies show workers who take 15-minute breaks every hour are more productive. So, create a new schedule that includes short breaks, and stick to it.

Use your smartphone to create reminders or set a recurring timer. Hang a sign above your door to prod you to “Take a Break!” Tell others about your new schedule so they don’t interrupt. When you formalize your breaks, it puts you on notice. It keeps you honest, making it harder to torpedo your commitment to relax.

Break the sleep-anxiety cycle

Here’s a common workaholic sleep scenario: You can’t sleep because you’re thinking about work. Your insomnia creates anxiety, and your anxiety raises your stress levels. Your higher stress levels then make it harder to fall asleep. Workaholics often fall into a negative feedback loop of anxiety and insomnia. It’s tough to break free from.

Good sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy work schedule. If you can’t succeed in keeping work out of your nightly thoughts, there’s not much hope for your waking hours. Here’s how to break the anxiety-sleep cycle:

-Avoid alcohol and caffeine two hours before bedtime.

-Keep your sleep schedule consistent. Don’t try and “catch up” on the weekends.

-Get some sun. Your circadian rhythm tells you when it’s time to sleep and wake.

-If you can’t quiet your mind, get out of bed and do something. Go for a walk. Play solitaire.

-No recliner dozing! Sleeping outside your bedroom trains you to only fall asleep there.

Find a support group

It’s difficult for Type A personalities to admit they’ve lost control and need help. But finding support in your community is the first step to workaholism recovery. Join a 12-step program like Workaholics Anonymous. The group offers regular meetings and 24-hour hotlines.

You can also depend on your biggest support group — your family. Many workaholics feel guilty for the years they’ve spent away from their families. Now is a time to connect with your friends and family, establish a support network, and make up for lost time.

If you’re not into finding a support group, start your own. It will give you an excuse to take time off and support yourself and others at the same time.

Embrace the “type B” lifestyle

Try taking a different approach to work and life in general — adopt a more Type B attitude that nurtures your creative, spontaneous side. This can mean taking up an artistic hobby like painting, music, or dance. Or it could be adopting a different philosophy that teaches relaxation, patience, and an easy-going attitude.

Craftsmanship is about perfection; art is about expression. Apply this idea to your own life. Things don’t have to be perfect all of the time. You don’t have to be in control. Sometimes less is more. Approach your work with more of an artistic mind. Without randomness, we would never experience the happy accidents of life. And they can be just as, if not more, fulfilling to our careers and work.


Morgen Henderson lives in the Silicone Slopes of Salt Lake City. She loves business and technology and has experience working in the family entertainment industry. In her free time, you can find her baking lots of sweet treats and travelling to foreign countries.

Twitter: @mo_hendi

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