Workaholics: The Mental Health Benefits to Slowing Down and Enjoying the Holiday Pace

This time of the year, everything slows down. This is especially apparent in the last two weeks of December. Many people take a vacation or take time off work so agendas tend to go on the back burner or get tossed out the window if not everyone is present. This is said to be good for our mental health and stress levels. Many practices such as yoga and mindfulness have become popular for these very goals, slowing us down and giving us time to think, reflect, and meditate. The season of lights and festivities makes us slow down and inhale.

It may just be my opinion, but I think people are nicer this time of the year also. I am not sure if the holidays puts them in a better mood or it is expected because there are a good amount of extra stressors around the holidays. Although many of us have longer “to do” lists and additional activities, most environments become more cheery around this month. An example of a place that may slow down and become friendlier is a corporate office. It seems like the speed turns from a ten to a nine on the ten scale in a usually somewhat cold environment that becomes more connected. Some employees look forward to this change, whether it be triggered by an office party or luncheon or just more people out of town. They enjoy the comradery; others do not.

Holiday’s And Workaholic(ism)

Some people become aware of their workaholic tendencies during this month. If they cannot sit back and enjoy the change they are not alone; many Americans deal with workaholic tendencies. Signs a workaholic may exhibit are:

1. Using work to avoid other things going on outside of work.
2. Finding your whole identity in work.
3. Working to escape loneliness.

Workaholic tendencies are common and not worth beating ourselves up about but also essential to be aware of. We can be so focused on our deadlines or production that we forget to prioritize our relationships. This month may make many people aware for the first time of these workaholic habits as most workaholics do not like the two weeks between Christmas and New Years. At work, it feels like nothing happens those two weeks. Although hard work is a virtue and can be an incredibly noble thing to do to earn money and make a difference it can be overdone and become unhealthy, like many other good things. Food is a good thing, but we can overeat.

We are fortunate to live in a country where work ethic and work environments allow workaholics to develop. There are some poorer countries where the standard of living does not allow workaholic tendencies to develop because it is so horrible there. The conditions are awful, and the sanitation is terrible. There are not many opportunities to make a decent living. I do not know about you, but I would rather live in a country where it is easy to become a workaholic than one where job environments are so bare bones that no one would want to stay after closing hour. In some of these areas, safety is such a huge factor and people do not often have cars so coordinating spending enough time at work to be considered overdoing it is not even feasible. I am thankful for the country we live in, but we do need to be educated about this problem. It can cause harm to our physical health and emotional health.

We often get a self-esteem boost from good days at work and great accomplishments at work so this can fuel our drive to work too many hours if we are not getting these needs met outside of work. In American colleges, we do not inform people about what a workaholic is and how this develops when the tools to work hard are being learned.
Like in all things there is a balance. I do not necessarily like when everything slows down in December. I sometimes am itching to get back to the normal pace.

The holidays are unpredictable and we would prefer have control through our work calendars. I personally do not like it when the business meeting is canceled last minute or a client no-shows because of holiday happenings. I love Christmas, but I also value productivity. The natural change of pace can be a very healthy thing for us. It forces us to prioritize relationships and disconnects us from work. Working hard is admirable and a good idea but comradery at work increases during this two week slow down. It can be a good thing for the overall morale and mental health of the workers. Who knows, they may work harder the following year because of those relationships and time to breathe.

If you have workaholic tendencies, just remember that with a break comes perspective. For example, if you take a break from your important project to spend a week with your family you may come back with fresh new ideas and a lot of energy to finish it up. The mental health benefits of the season and slowing down to smell the pine needles can be helpful even when it goes against our charge ahead nature.

Enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and an in-depth conversation can enrich our lives. Everything will speed back up in January. This is when productivity reaches an all-time high with people feeling more motivated by their New Year’s Goals. After Christmas, we switch back into full force within a week. For those who are enjoying the holiday season, this can be an unwelcome change. It may take some people a month or two to get back into full speed. This issue can be a touchy one, and my desire is just to inform and help people take time for their mental health; to reflect on their year or the people in their lives or their goals outside of work. If you are someone who does not like the change in pace, maybe it’s a good time to take up a hobby or read the book you heard of three years ago but have not had the time to read.

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