We often pride ourselves on being hard workers, but when is too much work unhealthy? Keeping yourself constantly busy to distract yourself is considered an unhealthy coping mechanism that deserves attention. Discover the negative impacts of being a “workaholic,” both mentally and physically, and how to practice a more sustainable lifestyle.
Overworking as a Coping Mechanism
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of people in the workforce experience mental illness, according to their article “Mental Health at Work.” When left untreated, many often try to cope with their illness with unhealthy behaviors such as drug abuse and self-harm. Other unhealthy coping mechanisms include overspending (shopping or gambling), oversleeping, over or undereating, and, yes, even overworking.
Normal healthy and beneficial activities like working hard, taking care of one’s family, and exercising may turn into coping mechanisms. However, the distinction between a healthy activity and a coping technique isn’t always obvious and might be crossed even when the person isn’t aware of it.
Not sure if you’re using work as a coping mechanism? Here are some signs:
- Poor sleep health, including insomnia
- Weakened immune system
- Increased mood swings
- Trouble balancing work and personal life
- Always on the clock, working on weekends or holidays
If you’re faced with negative thoughts and turn to work tasks to distract yourself, you likely use work as a coping mechanism.
Negative Effects of Overworking Yourself
Ignoring your mental health by overworking will only make your symptoms worse. This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle of stress, neglect, and exhaustion. Constantly working or thinking about your job can lead to anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression. While this may have been evident beforehand, you might not realize that there are physical health problems associated with overwork.
According to Harvard Health Publishing’s article “Only the Overworked Die Young,” employees who worked over 55 hours per week were 13% more likely to suffer from a heart attack, while 33% were at a greater risk of having a stroke in comparison to those who worked 35 to 40 hours per week. In Japan, overworking is such a common hazard that there is a word for death caused by overwork, “karoshi.” The same occurs in China, with these deaths being called “guolaosi.”
Meanwhile, another study revealed that even the spouses of those who overwork themselves experience additional stress. The study indicated that compared to women who are married to men who work a typical full-time work week, women who are married to men who work long hours (50 or more hours per week) had much greater reported stress and significantly worse relationship quality.
How to Change Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Overworking yourself to avoid personal problems or worries is unsustainable. As time passes, you’ll be able to relearn new, more positive behaviors. Use these strategies to help if you find that you’re feeling nervous, sad, or just struggling. You may deal with your mental health issues in a far more effective and long-lasting approach by using these techniques:
- Spend time with family and friends: Avoid isolating yourself and reach out to supportive loved ones who can help you face your problems head-on.
- Clock out, physically and mentally: After work, you should leave all thoughts of your job behind and spend time decompressing and relaxing.
- Find a new hobby: Being productive in a new activity can help you enjoy your spare time and avoid working.
- Discover your triggers: Knowing what sets off your negative reactions is extremely helpful. You’ll be more prepared for success if you keep note of how you feel in various situations and are conscious of how you respond.
While these are helpful ways to alter your negative coping mechanism, a professional therapist can provide extensive support and guide you on your mental health journey.
Learn Positive Coping Skills at Avalon Malibu
At Avalon Malibu, we offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which works heavily on creating healthy coping skills. The focus of CBT is on thought processes that result in negative behavior and how to change them. CBT at Avalon Malibu enables the therapist and clients to collaborate actively in the healing process.
Throughout each client’s stay, we promise tranquility and comfort, with constant contact to ensure a precise comprehension of any conflict or pain. By swiftly resolving any issue, we want to help the recovery community as a whole. The therapists at Avalon Malibu are equipped to assist you and your unique needs.
If you’re worried about spending time away from work, we do offer an intensive outpatient option that doesn’t require you to reside at our facility. This treatment option will also give you more flexibility to maintain your daily responsibilities. This way, you can still receive the treatment you need and learn healthy coping skills.
While working may help distract you, overexerting yourself and avoiding your mental health can lead to serious risks. Reaching out for help is the bravest thing you can do to help yourself and the ones you love. Our holistic residential mental health and addiction recovery center uses experiential techniques, expressive arts, and research-based psychotherapies. Our clients are inspired to take an active role in their rehabilitation by the compassionate and therapeutic atmosphere we offer. No treatment we provide is made to fit everyone exactly. Instead, we take great satisfaction in our ability to design treatment programs that are in line with your needs, both physically and mentally. If you’re ready to start healing, call our team at (844) 857-5992.