Don’t be a workaholic

Learning to live and relax in a 24/7 world.

April 2, 2010 16:12
4 minute read.
A detail from the poster for the film 'Hook.

hook 311. (photo credit: .)

Have you seen the 1991 movie Hook? It is director Steven Spielberg’s revisiting of J.M. Barrie’s delightful Peter Pan. Forty-year-old Peter (Robin Williams) is a workaholic lawyer with more affection for his cellphone than for his wife and his two children. When the family travels to England to visit Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith), Peter’s son and daughter are kidnapped by the infamous Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). Peter’s faithful pal, Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), helps him to return to Neverland – “Second Star to the right and straight on till morning” – to the world Peter has forgotten. Peter, the 24/7 lawyer, must somehow remember his long forgotten boyhood in Neverland. At the end of the movie, we see that Peter’s character has been dramatically transformed as he throws his cellphone into the snow.

In today’s 24/7 work world, like Peter, many of us have forgotten how important it is to slow down, enjoy some leisure and give work a break. Pressures of work are driving more people to become workaholics as the balance between careers and personal life becomes more and more blurred. It seems that the work never stops. Joggers talk to their office as they run. Parents pushing baby strollers are answering work calls. People do business as they shop for groceries. Others stop their treadmill workout, designed to get their stress level down, to answer their cellphone. Even beach strollers yell into their cellphones above the sound of the surf when they should be listening to the crashing waves and drinking in the sun or watching the sun set.

Part of the problem here is the new technology that has been created to make life easier actually does the opposite. E-mail, mobile phones, video-conferences eat up our time. Because things go faster, we are expected to produce more in less time and spend more time doing more. Simply put, today’s workers are finding it very tough to meet their personal emotional, social and health needs and the needs of their loved ones.

Work is important. We all need to pay the bills, but today’s corporate world has made it more difficult to have time to be out of service. It is essential to find ways to create a balance between work and personal, social, family and recreational time. Good mental health requires that you balance with play and relaxation. If not, people risk being depressed and anxious, developing health problems, having an affair, developing a food addiction, drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs.

Coping skills that take the pressure off:

• Get enough sleep (six to eight hours every night).

• Eat a balanced diet.

• Connect emotionally to other family members before leaving the house by saying “good morning” and wishing them, spouse or children, a nice day.

• Try to take breaks during the day to relax, meditate, get some fresh air, stretch and get your mind away from the work.

• Learn to recognize when you need to be in the office longer hours and when you can limit the time spent there. There are never enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, so give yourself a break, don’t expect perfection.

• Try to use problem solving to deal with work demands, and when you feel overwhelmed, try some deep breathing to calm yourself down.

• Don’t smoke cigarettes.

• Do some type of aerobic exercise at least three or four times a week.

• Each day, make sure you touch base and communicate with the people who are important in your social-personal life. Ask your spouse and your child/children how their day has been and listen attentively to their concerns and worries. It will also help you to get your mind off of your work.

• Have a hobby – reading, gardening, going to museums, collecting stamps, horseback riding.

• If you feel always disorganized and this is a source of anxiety, see a therapist who can evaluate and see if you have adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Five percent of adults have this problem and many do not realize that it is a source of their stress at work.

• Emotional problems complicate meeting work deadlines and tasks. If problems exist either with oneself or with other family members, seek out professional guidance and get the help you need.

• Take one day off each week and do no work at all. Shabbat is perfect for this.

The 24/7 world we live in is a personal challenge to learn how to keep our lives in balance. Having meaningful work stimulates learning, exchange with others, and personal evolution. But, too much work can rob us of other important aspects of our humanity.

The writer is a clinical social worker who sees patients both in Jerusalem and Ra’anana. [email protected]

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