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Why Being a Workaholic is Unhealthy: Understanding Risks and Remedies

March 28, 2024

Why Being a Workaholic is Unhealthy: Understanding Risks and Remedies

In today’s high-pressure work environment, the term “workaholic” is often used to describe individuals who are excessively devoted to their work, to the detriment of other aspects of their life. In Malaysia, working habits are characterised by long hours—the country ranks high globally for average weekly hours worked—which can exacerbate the issue.

What is a Workaholic?

A workaholic is someone who feels compelled to work excessively and who finds it difficult to detach from work. This relentless drive to work is not just about long hours; it is also about a psychological need to be engaged in work at all times, often at the expense of personal relationships, leisure activities, and health.

Health Risks Associated with Being a Workaholic

Being a workaholic comes with numerous health risks that can affect both physical and mental well-being:

1. Increased Risk of Physical Health Problems: Workaholics often neglect their physical health due to long hours spent inactive in front of computers, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. This lifestyle significantly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, the continuous stress without adequate rest can suppress the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections.

2. Mental Health Deterioration: The impact on mental health is profound for workaholics. Chronic stress can exacerbate or lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. The pressure to constantly perform can prevent effective disconnection from work, leading to mental exhaustion and reduced cognitive function over time​ (MedicalXpress)​​ (Psychology Today).

3. Emotional Well-being and Burnout: Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It results from feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands, ultimately leading to a loss of interest and motivation which initially prompted the individual to take on their role.

4. Neglected Relationships:Workaholics often spend less time with family and friends, which can strain personal relationships. The absence or lack of engagement in personal interactions can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, further impacting mental health and overall happiness​​ (MedicalXpress)​​ (Psychology Today).

5. Poor Work Performance Over Time: Ironically, while workaholics may initially seem to perform better due to extra hours and effort, their long-term performance may decline. This is due to burnout, health issues, and a lack of work-life balance, all of which can sap creativity and energy levels—key components for sustained professional success.

Overcoming Workaholism

1. Set Clear Boundaries: It is crucial to define clear boundaries between work and personal life. This might mean turning off work devices after a certain hour and during weekends to ensure work does not intrude on personal time.

2. Prioritise Health: Integrating regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep into one’s daily routine can help mitigate some of the health risks associated with being a workaholic.

3. Seek Professional Help: Therapy can be beneficial for those who find it difficult to scale back their work habits. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other forms of counselling can help address the underlying issues that contribute to workaholism.

4. Time Management: Effective time management can help ensure that work is done efficiently within work hours, leaving more time for personal life. Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique or time-blocking can be useful.

5. Cultivate Hobbies and Relationships: Actively pursuing hobbies and spending time with loved ones can help balance the scale between work and life, providing necessary breaks and reducing stress.

Being a workaholic is not only about working hard but also about an unhealthy obsession with work that can lead to significant health risks. Recognising the signs of workaholism and taking steps to mitigate its impact are essential for maintaining both physical and mental well-being.

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