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Well I'm back - should there be anyone still out there following my blog I sincerely thank you for your dedication and support! Where have I been you ask? The sad truth is I have been working around the clock for months either with work or projects I needed to accomplish this year. The good news is I've reached a point where I can step back and rejoin the land of the living but it's made me realize the toll this season has taken on me physically and emotionally.
I know I'm not alone in this. Work-Life balance is an archetype that eludes many of us; especially women today. We live in a do everything, be everything era and 'seasonal workaholics disorder' is sometimes a necessary evil. The truth is there are times in every professionals life where working day and night is just part of the job. When do we know that what we are doing is just par for the course or becoming something much more dangerous?
What I call Seasonal Workaholism is any regular or predefined period of time where workloads increase due to specific defined factors. For instance Tax Time is a season where tax accountants are sure to be found working long hours, nights, and weekends to meet the demand of their clientele and hard and fast deadlines. It is a way of life in a sense, but is not a daily/unending life style that dominates their life year round.
Honestly, for many of us these intervals are unavoidable. They are a part of the job that we are well aware of and take steps to prepare for and recouperate from. When our work-life is balanced we gear up for these periods and rest after we make it through in one piece. Many times there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride in our work as a result of these seasons where we find out 'what we are made of' or come away with a new revelation of what we are capable of accomplishing.
What are the warning signs of a true workaholic?
According to health professionals true workaholism has its roots is narcissm and it bears warning that those great feelings of accomplishment we experience at the end of an intense run of digging deep and pulling out all the stops can mislead us into thinking that we should work that hard all the time.
Professionals warn that the high standards component of perfectionism (or high expectations of self) are closely connected to workaholism. Additionally the discrepancy dimension of perfectionism or the perceived gap between one's performance expectations and self-evaluation of their performance is a significant predictor of all components of workaholism. Simplified this means that we should be cognizant of the forces that drive us to work longer and harder. Regular, honest evaluation of what is influencing our work to become a more dominant part of our lives is necessary to avoid falling into the trap of true workaholism.
Lastly, negative affect (i.e. sadness, anger, fear, worry) is shown to be related to overall workaholism. Conversely, positive affect (i.e. happiness, joy, confidence) is shown to be related to the polychronic control component (or the sense of accomplishment one receives from the ability to multitask at a high level) of workaholism. Again, be warned about triggers that cause us respond in unhealthy ways. Working hard is a good thing, but when used as a way to determine our value it can become addictive and deceptive and will almost always lead to a disappointing fall at some point.
How to ease out of Seasonal Workaholism and get back to normalcy
So we have determined that sometimes seasonal workaholism is a part of the expectations of our work-life, but when it's over how do we bring balance back into our life again? Well, I think that depends on you. I am one that prefers to work hard just a tad longer and push to at least get everything in order that has fallen to the wayside while I was focused on the one task that dominated my life for so long. For me gaining a good sense of the big picture helps me to feel less overwhelmed. That said, I don't feel like I have to accomplish everything I missed, just get a clear picture of what is on my plate now and then I'll work at it one step at a time until I get caught up. Others prefer to focus on one small project in bits and pieces until they gradually bring everything back into order. The important thing is that you do what you need to do to both rest and function in a way that is slower paced, less stressful, and less demanding that you had been.
Make sure you take time to chill with your family, sleep, enjoy your hobbies and reconnect with your friends. Slowly ease back into regular life and don't beat yourself up for being out of touch for a while. Life goes on and it's not what you missed but what you choose to do with the rest of the time you have that matters.
It's Your Turn:
Does your job have seasons that require you to work like crazy? How do you unwind and ease out of these stressful periods?
I'd love to hear from you! Please share how you maintain your work-life balance amidst the occasional workaholic seasons. Oh and thanks for sticking with me during mine!