*For an audio version of this post click here.
By definition, I am a mild workaholic. What started out as an eagerness to build experience in my field became an escape from the times I felt I did not have a solution for a hurtful situation in my life. I spent years overbooking my schedule to avoid being alone with my pain and disappointment. That pattern has now established a habit of overworking, which unfortunately sways my perspective so much that I allow work to take precedence over life experiences. I tell myself that by working I am being productive, and somehow I expect the positive outcome of productivity to erase the negative, drowning feeling of whatever emotion I am avoiding. Even as recent as last fall, I was working 7 days a week with some of my shifts being as long as 14 hours! In part because I love what I do and there is a certain level of short-term sacrifice that is needed to excel and climb the corporate ladder, but the addiction to that level of work is so far from healthy, especially in a long-term picture. I am often reminded that there is yet to be a person who on their death bed said “I wish I had worked another day”, usually the regret is of them not having been present in their life because they were consumed at work.
While I was away in the mountains this past September, I saw a sign at the cottage we were renting that read “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”. It hit me, and two months later I am still thinking of the impactful message that silly sign carried. It’s as if the sign put a mirror before me and forced me to realize that though I justify working as much as I do (“I am building the lifestyle we want”), I am in return not really experiencing life as fully as I could be.
I don’t get to enjoy down time because my absence at home means my to-do lists grow and grow. I often battle this tension that builds from not having the energy to work on the things God is calling me to because I am knowingly overworking elsewhere. It is a vicious cycle that is created, and one that is hard to break without feeling like a failure or like I am making a financial mistake. It is a mentality that is hard to part from, especially since a big part of our society prizes individuals who are willing to give up everything for their work- we are sought after by head hunters, are remarked for our devotion to growing our companies. Just look at doctors, lawyers, and the business world. Workaholics are prized possessions. I recall the first time I said no to a shift I was called in for, the guilt was so heavy and the fear of being put lower on the call list was so real that I internally beat my self up for it even though my body was so run down it needed the day to rest. Last year my husband had to hold me down in bed so that I would take a sick day because I was trying to reason going in to work despite having absolutely NO voice (thanks laryngitis) and it was my birthday. And man! The first time I booked a week off work without coverage to go visit my grandmother (whom I had not seein in four years) I was in internal turmoil! I reached a point where I literally did not know what rest was, even my days off were scheduled and if I did not complete the lists I had to do, it felt like I was an unproductive failure. The silly thing is that when my body finally forced me to a day off, nothing bad happened! Sure, staff aren’t always pleased to be short a hand, but everyone goes on to manage caseloads, and doctors move on with their clinic schedules. Even with our home – so bit of dust accumulates and I have to do two loads of laundry on the weekend, so what! Nothing bad happens when we stop to rest, actually, a lot of good stuff happens within ourselves when we finally stop!
These realities are what brought me to recently make a drastic move in my career and willingly cut income. Ah! My mind races with anxiety at times, but I am choosing to take an active step to help myself, help my marriage, and be obedient to the things God is calling me to pursue. There is a reason why Jesus set the example of observing the Sabbath, it is something we so deeply need as beings in all areas of our lives. We make better decisions when we are rested, we are able to manage our emotions better, and we are overall more happy and more pleasant to be around! I do like how in Romans 14:5-6 Paul spoke about putting less stress on it having to be one specific day of the week, and more importance of just taking a day to rest and worship God, whatever day of the week it may be. The Sabbath is also a way of us setting priorities in our life and putting our trust in God to be our provider when we make Him our priority.
My goal with decreasing my work days to just 20/month is that I will be more rested and allow my body to be healthy. Over exhaustion and adrenal fatigue are serious consequences to overworking your body, and in some drastic cases death has occurred for individuals that pushed their body’s beyond their breaking point. There is also such importance in being spiritually present and active in your everyday life, and the only way we can spiritually grow is by taking the time to dig deeper into God and our awareness of our spiritual lives.
So! For the practical part.
1. Come clean
Are you a workaholic? Not sure? Check out this link and read through some of the active tendencies of a workaholic. It is easy to sometimes miss warning signs, especially as the devil is pretty darn good at making wrong look right and bad look innocent.
2. Set priorities
If you feel do have some of the workaholic tendencies, what can you do to start changing your patterns away from it? Think about the things that bring you joy that are not work related. Maybe you enjoy a sport or hobby, perhaps it is family time. Make a list of these things, and mark them as a priority in your schedule. Make some of them non-negotiable so that it is harder to justify allowing them to fall lower on the priority list as our work tendencies start to creep up (because they will try to suck you in!). It is easy to guilt ourselves into old patterns, especially when the little devil is in our ear condemning our efforts to set a balance and be present in our family time – he hates family and happiness! Don’t give in to the negative talk and feelings that attack your push to a healthier and better balanced life that is full of living for life-giving moments, not just a paycheck.
3. Go over your finances
Are you living within your means? There is a tendency to increase our expense as we increase our income, and unfortunately that leaves us chained to our paychecks instead of giving us freedom to have more life experiences.
Anth and I have made it so that our mortgage and living expenses can be mostly covered by one income,. This means that anytime I try and justify overworking I cannot say “we have bills to pay”, because the second income is extra (ie. renos budget at the moment). Now, that does not mean we should be spending that income freely, I still believe that making extra mortgage payments and ensuring our debt is limited is best. But! I also believe things like travel and purchasing that item you have been eyeing for months are reasonable options for our savings (just not your “rainy day savings”!).
Sit and go over all of your bills and expenses, and see where you can start making cuts so that you can re-introduce financial balance to your life. Perhaps that unused gym membership can go, or canceling the extra packages of cable would allow you to invest both time and finances into an activity or vacation you have been wanting.
If there is one thing my field has taught me it is this: we are only guaranteed health and youth for today, make the best of it. We do not know what will happen tomorrow, or what our health will have to face, so putting off life experiences for later could very well mean never experiencing them.