The holidays can be triggering for many reasons. It’s tempting to fall back into work mode, and hide there. But don’t give up!
It’s hard for me to stop working.
I’m a passionate person, and highly driven. When things go well, I’m on top of the world. When projects go badly, I triple my efforts in trying to fix them. 2016 has been a garbage year, for a lot of people. I am no exception. There’s too much to do, too much to fix, and not enough time.
Now, the holidays are here. The candles are lit, Christmas cards are arriving, lights go up on surrounding houses, carols drift by with each passing car…and I’m working. I’m typing furiously, checking boxes off of my to-do list, and fighting a heavy cold. Now is not the time for rest. My hustle is unstoppable.
Everyone around me is hunkering down in cozy sweaters and sipping egg nog with loved ones. Why are all my friends so relaxed? It’s both mystifying and enviable. I’d love to lounge around and feel merry. But the very thought of doing nothing makes me feel anxious. Why?
I guess I’m just not ready for the year to end. With so many projects up in the air, and a mountain of unfinished messes on my desk, I simply can’t stop working. My goals are huge, and I’m never going to reach them if I stop working.
It’s been this way for nearly every holiday that I can remember.
I’m scared that if I stop working, success will pass me by. I’m worried that if I don’t have achievements to show my friends and family, then I won’t be making them proud. And if I’m not making my family proud, they aren’t going to love me.
In typing this, I realize just how f*cked up that sounds.
My name is Rachel, and I’m a workaholic.
…At least, that’s what my family, friends and therapist tell me.
But how reliable can their opinions be, really? For the sake of this article, I’ve decided to turn to the real expert in my life: Google.
Searching: “Signs You Might Be A Workaholic.”
- “You may be a workaholic if… you devalue self-care and personal priorities in favor of professional goals.”
- “The thought of not working is more stressful than actually working.”
- “You don’t take real vacations. You sneak in work wherever you can.”
- “You rarely tell your bosses ‘no,’ but your friends and family rarely hear ‘yes.’”
Uh….sure, I display all of these qualities, but I think there’s a difference between ‘workaholism’ and a successful mindset. I thought passion and persistence were good things. I work hard, so I can play hard…someday.
After all, this isn’t an addiction. It’s dedication and drive!
I want everyone to see me as ambitious, busy, and on the way to something great, because that’s who I want to be. I’m terrified of sitting still, because I’m not a lazy person. I’ve got important things to do.
…That said, I should be working on my dreams, not Googling made-up diseases.
So screw you, Google. I’m fine.
- “You never call yourself a workaholic.”
Mental illness is no stranger to me. I’m not exactly hiding that I’ve struggled with depression, OCD and CPTSD for most of my life. I don’t need – or want – to add one more label to my long list of problems.
That said, the problem is already there. Becoming aware of it and adding a handy label doesn’t add fuel to the fire. Noticing a rainstorm is the first step to finding an umbrella.
So, I’m coming up with a plan. Perhaps there’s a way to trick my workaholic brain into seeing the impending holiday as an opportunity, instead of a drag on my momentum. I’m making this list of tips for myself to follow as the holidays unfold. I invite you all to join me!
A Workaholic’s Guide to a Happy Holiday
Week 1. Pre-Game!
In the week leading up to your holiday plans, you can maximize your productivity in a final year-end push. Tying up loose ends in this way can help to diminish your guilt and stress while you’re away.
A: Schedule your final week of work with the most intense tasks, first.
Then in the last few days of this workweek, give yourself more time in the evenings to relax. This will help you practice ‘putting it down’ and focusing on what’s important.
B: Give yourself a year-end review.
Go over your calendars, notes and milestones from the year and make a list of your biggest accomplishments. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve done in the last 365 days.
C: Don’t plan what’s next.
Take your list of accomplishments with you for the holidays, and skim over it once a day if that makes you feel better. The holidays are a time to celebrate what’s important, and you are worth celebrating. You’ve worked hard to get here, so stop and appreciate it for a week or two. Every business needs to take a little time out for inventory, and you are no different. Celebrate what you’ve got!
Week 2. Merry Christmas!
Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, this time of year is about family and friends. If you’ve cut them out of your life, now is the time to reconnect. If being around family overwhelms you, remember to squeeze in some ‘you’ time. The holidays can be triggering for many reasons. It’s tempting to fall back into work mode, and hide there. But don’t give up! The following steps will help you make the most of this time away from work.
A: Get lost in activities.
Play scrabble, go skiing, build a snowman. Engage in a long conversation with your grandma, and ask her what life was like for her at your age. Whatever your family and friends like to do for the holidays, jump in. Putting work down is surprisingly productive for your general sense of well-being, health, and clarity of mind. Life is happening in front of you. Don’t miss it.
B: Give yourself five minutes (every other day) to scan your emails.
Don’t analyze or reply to any of them, just skim through subject lines. It’ll give your peace of mind in knowing that nothing’s caught on fire while you’re away, and lower your anxiety. That said…make sure to set a timer, so you don’t get sucked in.
C: Put down your Smartphone.
Everyone around you is taking pictures, and they’ll be there when the holidays are over. Social media can be a one-way ticket to comparison, competition, emotional triggers and conflict. Do your professional spirit a favor and unplug for the holidays. You’ll come back to your work refreshed and ready to rock, without any extra baggage.
Week 3. Have a Happy New Year.
A: Remember that list of last year’s accomplishments?
Keep it. When you’re on the plane back from your holiday travels, pull out that list and think about how far you’ve come. Add “enjoyed the holidays” to the end of that list, and decide to do even better next year. Now that the holidays are over, you can jump into goal-setting and evaluating your priorities for the new year. Enjoy the brainstorm, but don’t burn out.
B: Set aside time to examine what you missed (and didn’t miss) over the holidays, organizing emails by priority and responding in little chunks.
Pace yourself and ease back into your routine. Don’t work late. Instead, use your evenings to relax (like you did before the holidays). Implementing a healthy balance will make you even more productive in the long run.
C: Take time to review what just happened.
We can only understand the object of our addiction once it is taken away. So how were the holidays for you, really? Do your shame-based feelings suggest that a deeper healing needs to take place? Call your friends and family to check in, now that the holidays are over. Ask them what they think. Remember where your support system is, and use it. There are many ways to achieve a healthy balance in life, so figure out what’s best for you. Perhaps you can commit to reading relevant books (like Daring Greatly) and implement their teachings. Maybe therapy is a good option.
The new year is a great time to commit to your success – and a healthy mindset is key to success in all areas.
I’ll be working to follow my own advice this holiday season, and I hope you’ll join me in the journey. Are there any tips that work (or don’t) for you? Share with us in the comments below!