Each person who experiences trauma develops a different way to cope with what happened to them. Some of those coping mechanisms are healthy, some are not. Some trauma responses that appear healthy on the outside can be some of the most internally damaging and difficult to work through. A percentage of trauma survivors sink into a deep, debilitating depression. Others develop addictions as a way to manage the overwhelming emotional and mental repercussions. A subgroup of those people become addicted to productivity, also known as workaholism. If you’re working too hard and too many hours, you’re not thinking about the trauma. But this option can be just as unhealthy as any other coping mechanism.
Our society often glorifies and rewards workaholics, which sends the message that work must always come first, despite any personal cost. Checking emails outside of work hours, missing important social engagements, delaying or canceling vacations, and working unpaid overtime all can be signs of over-productivity and have one thing in common—neglecting all other important areas of your life. Many people don’t realize that this can be a trauma response. The distraction of work can momentarily feel like a vacation from the anxieties of your personal life, and in moderation work can be a healthy way to calm down, but not to the point where it becomes impossible to unwind and decompress without thinking about work. This isn’t progress, it’s only delaying the inevitable—burnout.
So how do you learn to achieve a healthy work/life balance? It starts with the basics: being present in the moment. This is, as many of us know, a lot easier said than doing. Start by being aware of the color of the carpet, the scents in the air, the breeze coming in through the window, basically all those details that bring you back to this exact moment. The more you practice being grounded, the easier and more natural it starts to become.
Being present is only one piece of the puzzle. If you or your loved one has suffered a traumatic event, it’s imperative that you eventually deal with the root cause of the trauma, whether that be through therapy, meditation, or mindfulness. It wasn’t until I finally accepted that what happened to me had impacted me mentally that I could find the help I needed and get back to living my life.
There is a difference between working hard and working compulsively, and sometimes it’s difficult to decipher which end of that spectrum you’re on. Be sure to be open with those around you if you feel yourself letting work become too big of a focus. Make sure to take time for yourself, your family, your friends, and your hobbies. Most of all, seek out help sooner rather than later. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know what a strong advocate I am for mental health and for being open with the people around you. If you are struggling in any way, reach out, to me, to a professional, to someone who cares. You’re worth it!