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The Siren of Overwork: How to break out of a socially condoned pathology
Most of us are familiar with procrastination. You know, that lack of motivation that feels like we are wading through thick molasses carrying a hundred pound weight? However, there is another kind of procrastination that is a lot easier to miss.
It goes something like this, “Ok. I’m going to work REALLY hard at (insert task) even though it is going to completely usurp my life for a long stretch of time, but THEN (and only then) I can relax.” The problem, as I discovered over time, is that it is one big LIE!
The truth is that later never comes. The minute one task is finished, there is bound to be something else around the corner that needs (or seems to need) IMMEDIATE attention. As one former coworker used to say, “The world is not going to end if this doesn’t happen today!” Nonetheless, many of us feel driven to work harder and longer even when there are clear signs that it is not healthy or even hurting us!
The problem with constant stimulation is that it puts our body in to the fight or flight part of our nervous system – what we commonly call “stress.” It makes us hypersensitive to our environment, anxious, causes inflammation, and eats up the body’s resources until many of us get sick or exhaust our adrenals.
Yet how do we break the pattern?
In many ways, overwork can be an addiction. Like a mythological siren who's song lures the unwary sailor to crash onto the rocks, addictions often serve some unconscious need. We might try asking ourselves some of the following questions:
The situation becomes even harder when we realize that OVERWORK is ingrained as a positive value into our culture. It’s “normal” to burn the candle at both ends, to be constantly overstimulated, and to boost our failing bodily systems with caffeine and stimulants to keep us going. Yet normal does NOT mean ideal. It just means that a large majority of people have the same pathology, and when people don’t know a life any different, the voice of reason can seem very foreign indeed.
Taking care of ourselves comes in the small choices we make every day. Ask yourself, is this (job / project / social event) enhancing my vital energy or draining it? Next, am I putting off something that would enhance my life by saying I’m too busy? Finally, how can I set small boundaries around my need for rest and balance?
Have a favorite way that you maintain a good work-home balance? Please share it by clicking on "comment" below..
Wishing you the best of health and well-being,
Tabitha Marsh combines Massage & Acupuncture to provide natural pain relief and mental-emotional balance. She also teaches classes on Qigong & Cultivating Health & Wellbeing.