Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Are You A Workaholic? Achieving A Reasonable Work-Life Balance To Keep You Sane

Are You A Workaholic? Achieving A Reasonable Work-Life Balance To Keep You Sane

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

~Dolly Parton

Once upon a time the average husband would sign up with The Man at The Company, toil away for 50 years, get his gold watch and retire. The wife would stay home and do everything else: raise the kids, do the shopping, the laundry and the cleaning.

It’s not like that anymore. Many if not most women work to earn a living, and don’t depend on a spouse to survive. We live in a different world today. Technology has altered how we work, when we work, sometimes even where we work. It’s becoming ever more stressful to have it all: a successful career, and a relaxed, content if not happy life outside of work.

You’re tethered to your phone. You work late into the night. You’re on call 24/7. (That used to only be for doctors in training – not anymore.) The email that HAS to be answered, RIGHT NOW. And if you don’t, uh-oh, they’ll think you’re not measuring up to what is really an impossible standard, and you’ll find yourself looking for a new job. Or so you think.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and if you let it, it will interfere with not just “having a life,” but maintaining good physical and emotional health, a happy relationship (or finding one if you don’t yet have one and want one), enjoying the job you have, taking pride in your performance, and feeling competent and content – good about yourself and your life.

Signs you’re falling into the workaholic trap:

        • Racking up hours upon hours for your job, whether at the office or remotely

        • Unable to unplug – ever

        • Coming down with a cold or other health issue more frequently

        • Feeling stressed out almost all the time

        • Never taking a break – for lunch, for a vacation, for ten minutes to walk around the block

        • Exercise has fallen by the wayside – no time for the gym, yoga, running, tennis, or other

        • Starting to feel you’re not good enough

        • Canceling (or not making) dates with friends or spending time with family

        • Inability to delegate – feeling you need to do it all, because only you do it well enough

        • Getting burned out and ready to give up

I could go on. So could you. I’ll bet you could add another half dozen items to the list. So how can you better this situation? Two things are key: letting go of the idea of perfection. (There is no such thing – we’re humans, remember?) Instead of trying to be “perfect” (the perfect employee, the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, the perfect friend), since perfection does not exist, try instead to be “merely” excellent. That would be amazing. Maybe you don’t even get to check off excellent on every box. That’s ok, because sometimes good enough is good enough.

Second key thing is unplug. Shut off your phone. Stop looking at emails 17 times a day. Or Facebook and the latest cute cat video or what your friends are doing. I got a laugh the other day in the elevator of my office building. I said to the six or seven people standing around me, “There must be something wrong with me.” All heads turned towards me. “I’m not on my phone.” Everyone else was. There is emerging scientific evidence that it is genuinely bad for your health. The more mental energy devoted to your phone, the less there is for everything else. Staring at your phone in bed is disruptive to sleep (that blue light it emits does something to your brain). Seeing happy pictures of your ex in a new relationship can be emotionally devastating – worse than hearing about it from someone, stirring up feelings of jealousy, envy and possibly leading to depression.

There are positive things you can do to restore a healthy work-life balance. You know what I’m going to say, right?

        • Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. It reduces stress, in a scientifically proven way, reducing the body’s           stress response (the sympathetic nervous system) and increasing the body’s rest and digest
          response (the parasympathetic nervous system).

        • Become more realistic about what you can achieve in a day. Learn to say no. Delegate.

        • Prioritize. Not everything has to be done now, or even today.

        • Learn to set boundaries. At work and at home.

        • Find out about flex time at your job. They might surprise you and allow it.

        • Make room for quality time with friends and family.

        • Find an activity you enjoy and do it!

        • Take time off – during the workday and for a vacation.

        • Eat healthy food and get enough sleep.

This could become a long post. If you find yourself becoming a workaholic, or recognize that you already are, it’s important to divert attention from work to attention to yourself. Be selfish. It’s not a dirty word. It means you understand the importance being your optimum self, and doing the things that will make that be the case, whatever they are. You’ll improve your health, your immune system, your friendships, your relationship with a significant other, and ultimately, success at work.

Be careful, though. If you’re a perfectionistic workaholic Type A personality, you’ll take this too much to heart and try to do too much. Like those who have come to me and proudly announced they’ve joined the gym and they’ve been going every day! Then seven days becomes six because, well, they had to finish that report; six becomes five, five becomes four….and eventually (or not so eventually) they feel guilty and quit altogether. Why? Because they set unrealistic expectations for themselves in this arena, just like they did at work.

Just as an example, if we take adding exercise to improve your work-life balance, make it no more than two days a week. Not five, six or seven. Just two. But come hell or high water, you do those two days a week. Doesn’t matter if it’s just the weekend and just half an hour. Or two other days in a row. Whatever works, do those two days until it begins to feel not quite enough, which may take months. Then add ONE more day. Just one. And do those three days a week no matter what. If you never add more, it will suffice.

And likewise with other things that will make for a less stressed out, burned out, exhausted life that’s taking too much of a toll on you. Work to live, don’t live to work.

A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”

~ Marilyn Monroe

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