Compliments of Toprural via Flickr

How many times have you worked throughout the weekend, only to salvage a few precious hours late Sunday afternoon? Why do we continually shortchange ourselves when it comes to nurturing our souls? Breathnach mentions “setting aside a personal Sabbath” in which we ratchet down our frenzied pace.

She explains that the Sabbath is not a day to get ahead of your work week, or to play catch up with stragglers from weeks past. “This is what the Sabbath is for: reverie, rest, renewal, rejuvenation, reassuring rituals, relaxation, recreation, rejoicing, revelation, remembering how much you have to be grateful for, and saying ‘thank you.’”

In his book “The Success Principles” Jack Campbell talks about scheduling “Free Days” in which no work transpires – and, where you are unavailable to what might otherwise be a clawing mass of clients, busybodies, and meddlesome family members. He argues that time off to recharge our batteries is necessary to “generate breakthrough” ideas;  and to find what Pearce calls “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg,” or portal to a seamless dimension of creativity, an inspired realm in which projects flow through us channeled in their entirety. This assumes of course that what you have in terms of intuition is a satellite dish and not a pair of foil covered antennae. Intuition can be cultivated through relaxation.

Running ourselves ragged does a disservice to our spirit, our body, and to our state of mental health. Our preoccupation with materialism in this country is partly to blame for the overtime we spend at the office – what’s worse is that those who telecommute report working even longer time periods because they can’t get away.

Workaholism is a national obsession within this country. In his article “Workaholism: the respectable addition” Kirchheimer describes a condition called “leisure illness” in which workers become physically ill if they’re not engaged in job activity. Other countries work to live, whereas we live to work – to the detriment of personal relationships, family, and outside interests. The concept of Karoshi is burnout in the extreme, where haggard employees actually die from overwork.

Work as obsession is a cover for something that is either missing, or which we seek to avoid. Like a drug it masks that which gnaws our psyche, providing temporary relief through redirection of effort. Like all drugs the effects are temporary, and the problems remain.

To detox, try going cold turkey on a weekend with no cell phone, TV or computer; better yet, do this at a location where these conveniences are unavailable – e.g., a camping trip, religious retreat, or monastery. Being religious with regularly planned vacations puts things in perspective, and gives you a mental reprieve.

What can you do to break the cycle of work addition?

  1. Have someone hold you accountable: tell others what you’ll be doing, and later how you fulfilled your obligation (to yourself). The shame you experience in breaking your promises might be enough to propel you toward more healthy behaviors.
  2. Pay for tickets. You are more likely to honor a commitment that has a price tag. [Make sure they’re non-refundable].
  3. Schedule time with a family member or friend you don’t normally see, one who is not conveniently located near you. The excursion will prevent you from sneaking in more work.
  4. Prioritize. Downtime won’t happen unless we consider it of equal import with other things in our lives.
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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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One Response
  1. I need this kind of reminder so badly. I KNOW this stuff, have known it for years, but the work load just creeps up like a camel nosing into a tent. I’m not a workaholic in the classic sense–when I’ve forgotten my cell phone, or someplace without wifi, I experience a sense of relief, and feel no compulsion to “check in.” And yet, with the demands of a special needs child, a mother with dementia and leukemia, a workaholic workplace, and juggling all the housework to boot, it is hard to make myself schedule those “times off” since the other stuff just piles up higher.

  2. Donn King on May 6th, 2011 at 8:44 am