At the start of winter break last year, I was stressed. I was hoping to make extra money in lieu of classes since my current job does not offer extra hours. A company I love was in the process of hiring me when, all of a sudden, the management at the location decided they were too busy with the holiday season to train me. Disappointment and anxiety set in. Plan A was out the window and I had no idea what I was going to do. I only worked 10-15 hours a week at the most. To make things worse, the majority of my home friends work. All. The. Time. “I should be doing what they’re doing,” I told myself. There had to be something I could do to fill my time. A few days into break, though, I shut my computer. Nothing caught my interest enough to put effort into an application, so I funneled energy into getting my life at least somewhat together with the extra time I had.
If you find yourself in an eat-sleep-study-work pattern, congratulations—you’re a diagnosed workaholic. A large chunk of our culture is obsessed with the #hustle and #grind and loves spreading awareness for #mentalhealth but if the hashtags don’t balance each other out, one will end up weighing you down. We’re human beings, not robots.
Healthy boundaries are different for every person and every job, so it is up to you to decide what works best. Setting boundaries may involve working no more than what you are scheduled by not picking up/covering shifts, saying no when a manager asks if you can come in on a day you are not scheduled, or not responding to work calls, texts, and/or emails on your day off unless you need to. You know what you can and cannot handle, but if you are always the one business is relying on to keep the workplace going, they may start taking advantage of you. No employee should be taken advantage of their willingness to go the extra mile and if you find yourself in that situation, it is time to reevaluate, talk to your managers, or find a new job. If the reason you are working more than you are expected to in the first place stems from the need for more money in your account, there are ways to work what you initially signed up for while still making the money you need.
Not only does being a workaholic hurt you, it hurts the people around you. I’ve had friends cancel on me more than twice because
a) they were called into work
b) they couldn’t get a shift covered
or c) they “had to work”.
All of these excuses are one in the same. In fact, I’ve made plans with people far in advance only to have them cancel on me because of work. Been there before? I’m sure you have. It doesn’t feel good. Life happens and when it does there’s nothing you can do about it. But if dropping people for your job becomes an ongoing pattern, that’s when you need to reevaluate how you’re living. If we truly care about people, we make time for them. You give your work power over you by letting it suck you in.
How to kiss “workaholism” goodbye:
1. Establish self-respect by setting healthy boundaries.
This looks different for every person and every job, so it’s up to you to decide what works best. Setting boundaries may involve only answering emails once or twice a day, or only during the week and never on the weekends. If you’re asked to work more than you agreed or are contractually obligated to, learn to say no. Ignore the temptation to pick up extra shifts that will run you dry. Do not let people use you. If a workplace relies on you solely and has no other options to fill shifts, it’s time to pack and run.
2. Know your purpose.
Money should be a means to an end, not the end. We spend so much time earning money and not enough time considering how to use that money to get to where we want to be long-term. Making money will start to mean more than dinner and car payments when you start investing, saving, and spending those Ben Franklins with intention rather than out of compulsion.
3. Clean up and prioritize your budget.
Much of the time, anxiety and panic arises from the ever-growing list of bills piling up on your desk and in your phone. Let’s be honest—you’re probably paying for services and things you don’t need. HOW many streaming services are you subscribed to? You definitely don’t need that many. Look into student deals that will condense your spending. Spotify has an unbeatable bargain that gives you its Premium music service, Hulu, and Showtime all for $5 a month. Amazon Prime cuts its annual price in half, a mere $60 a year that gives you access to free, two-day shipping, unlimited streaming on the Prime video platform, and exclusive discounts.
Thrift, find a cheaper grocery store (look around for your nearest Trader Joe’s or Aldi!), do whatever you have to do to de-clutter your life and take care of what matters most. A little research will go a long way.
With every obstacle, there’s always a happy ending. Instead of working my butt off over break, I ended up spending valuable time with family members I don’t usually see, caught up with people I hadn’t hung out within years, and did more of what I love the most: writing. Moreover, I received several generous financial gifts that allowed me to catch up on school loans and easily pay for rent. Shout-out to not getting that job over break—God knows I needed a break myself. Things always work out the way they should and never in the way we expect. Once you accept that you will find yourself stressing over much less.
Use this new year and this new decade to consider what you really want out of life. It’s good to be realistic, but it’s even more important to put yourself first. Don’t break your back trying to get that extra dime; take a moment to breathe every so often. Your body and the people in your life will thank you for doing so.