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Workaholics are risking their lives

  • 2010-12-16

We live in a society where all people are in constant motion. Each of us can always be found on the Internet or you can always reach us on a mobile phone. We eat in the car, trying to catch one important meeting after another. We come to the office early and work until late. We check our e-mails, even when we’re sitting at home or while on vacation. We regret that there are only 24 hours in a day and in order to find more time, try to sleep less. Too much work can negatively affect mental and physical health. According to medical research, around 75-90% of all visits to doctors are connected with health problems caused by stress.

Workaholism was first described by psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi in 1919. He was treating this illness in his patients, who fell ill at the end of the week, and then quickly recovered on Monday morning.

The negative impact of long hours of work

Psychologists divided workaholism into four stages.
First, the initial stage, usually goes unnoticed, and begins with the fact that a person stays longer at work, thinks about it in his leisure time, the private life fades into the background.

The second stage - critical. It is when the job becomes a passion. Personal life is completely subdued to work, and the patient finds many excuses for that. He experiences chronic fatigue and disturbed sleep.
The next stage - chronic. The workaholic voluntarily takes up more and more responsibilities, becoming a perfectionist, but he cannot make everything in time. The disease continues to develop.
When the last stage comes, the person becomes ill, both physically and psychologically. The ability to work decreases, the person is almost broken.

Three categories of people are most prone to workaholism. Firstly, those are senior executives and business owners. In the second category are highly educated professionals: doctors, lawyers, and teachers. And in the third category are people of creative professions: writers, musicians and artists.
Traits that are inherent for the typical modern workaholic: love of order, conscientiousness, patience in work, persistence, which turns into stubbornness, fear of making a mistake, accumulation of stress, inability to relax, rest, inability to openly express emotions.

A vicious circle begins with the dangerous combination of two things: too much stress and too little sleep. A small amount of stress is a normal part of life, to some extent, even useful. But chronic stress, when a person is always in a hurry and he does not even have the possibility to have a break, is very bad. If such a situation does not change for a long period of time, it can lead to many unpleasant symptoms such as stomach pains, high blood pressure and chest pain. It can also worsen existing diseases or cause new ones. It also may include a tendency to gain weight and abuse nicotine and alcohol.

Stress can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Often people can not sleep because of the fact that they are very worried about something or someone, for example, about something bad that the boss said, or about a big upcoming presentation. Although problems with sleep appear from time to time and are a part of human nature, the lack of sleep (i.e. sleep duration less than 7-9 hours a day), repeated regularly, leads to deterioration of attention and concentration (which is very bad both at home and at work, especially when you are driving!), as well as an increased feeling of hunger and poor metabolism.

Too much work can also affect mental health. Chronic stress is associated with depression and anxiety.

Are you a workaholic?

Not all workaholics are actually the same. There are pretend workaholics - those who are trying to cover up their inability to perform tasks with their excessive zeal for work. Such people usually adapt well in the companies where the zone of responsibility of a single employee is not defined clearly.
So what is normal when working and what is not? In general, if there is psychological pressure, and your family complains that you work too much, you may be at risk. Here are some questions to ask yourself to figure out whether you control your working life, or not.
- Do you work on weekends or on holidays?
- Do you work more than 40 hours per week?
- Do you stay at work till late?
- Are you afraid that if you do not work hard enough, you can fail or lose your job?
- Do you think about work while driving, going to sleep or talking to other people?

How to stop just working and start living

You can try to restore the balance of work and private life using a plan to reduce stress. For starters, every morning should begin with a five-minute “for me” when you do not have to do anything. Sounds weird, but just try to sit and listen to the world around you. Do not plan your day and do not rack your brains over the list of things that you have to do today. Just live on and listen to your breathing.

Next step: the lunch break should last at least half an hour. Focus on eating and do not think about work or about the next task in the list. If the break lasts an hour, you can stroll around the building after lunch and think about what you are doing at the moment and not about what you should do afterwards.
Next: Reduce the number of working hours. Each day you should stop working 15 minutes earlier and keep doing it until you reach the norm of 40 hours per week.

In general, try not to get caught in the trap of your thoughts that the more and the harder you work, the better. That is not true. Life is short, and if you work hard and suffer from tension, it will cause irreparable harm to health. Take time to communicate with the family and enjoy what life outside the working walls gives us.

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According to EU estimates, about 7% of Europeans suffer from “burnout” at work, 5-7% suffer from depression, 28% suffer from chronic stress and 33% suffer from chronic pain in the spine because of work.

Many employees of companies in Europe do not use all their annual holiday. They work in the summer. In most countries of the European Union there are so-called “workaholics anonymous” societies, where people gather to listen to each other, as well as to get help from doctors, psychologists and business coaches. The formulations, articulated at the meetings are very similar to those that can be heard in the “alcoholics anonymous” group meetings: “We recognize that our desire for work is pathological, we must take a sober look at the past life and draw conclusions” or “We have forgotten about our loved ones, causing them irreparable harm. Now we will give them the warmth and love that they deserve.”

In Germany there are over 200,000 workaholics, in Switzerland - around 115,000. The society of workaholics in Switzerland is called “Crazy workers”. Workaholism there was elevated to the rank of the plague of the XXI century.