Breaking the Cycle of ‘Workaholism’

A mental health professional explains the risks of overworking and how to be more intentional about taking a breather.
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With our phones keeping us connected to social media, email and other forms of communication at all times, it can be hard to “turn off.” It’s easy, though, to fall into workaholic tendencies and create an unhealthy cycle of overworking yourself. Working to the point of exhaustion is all too common in the real estate industry. So, to better understand why we overwork and how we can overcome bad habits, I sat down with therapist Sherri S. Wick of Holistically Divine Counseling.

Q: You’ve taught stress management courses to real estate professionals over the years. Do you see common traits among those who overwork themselves?

A: There are varying reasons why people overwork themselves. But some similarities in personality I’ve seen are tenacity; stubbornness; drive; perseverance; being goal-oriented, focused or resilient; and having a vision.

When we stop to think about it, most real estate agents have their “why.” Your why typically drives the level at which you work. Understanding your goals and vision is important to stay motivated, but finding a way to balance your why—and how hard you work for it—might be even more important.

Everyone has a different reason for working the way they do, but when we know better, we can do better. How can we be more aware of how we’re working?

Overworking is definitely more of a cultural phenomenon in the U.S. But if individuals look at their background and the current state of their life, that can help. Some individuals want to ensure they provide a life they were not afforded growing up. For others, it is about building their legacy. Many folks have values around wealth and means. But also, very simply, some people thoroughly enjoy working, and they may not see themselves as overworking.

Stress, regret, over- or undereating, lack of exercise, less time for yourself and always focusing on the next thing are all risk factors for overworking. Allowing the body to return to its normal place of homeostasis—spending time with family and friends, getting proper nutrition and rest, and practicing gratitude—are all things that can help rebalance how much time is spent on work and leisure.

Is it safe to say that when someone is in the habit of overworking, this can lead to a downward spiral into “workaholism?”

Absolutely. The idea of “I just need to finish this” or “I’ll stop after that” is unrealistic. The reality is you don’t ever truly finish; there is always more work to be done. Finding healthy places to pause, reflect and identify ways to work more efficiently can help decrease “workaholism.” But we as a society choose to pause and reflect as a last resort.

How can we shift our behaviors to move past working too much?

You first need to recognize what is going on around you and the behaviors taking place. Identifying tasks and organizational systems that can help with not overworking is too much to focus on when there is often a “hustle” mentality. Work on core values and understand how those do or don’t play out in your business. As a society, a change in culture and expectations also needs to take place. We tend to operate in a place of comparison, which is extremely unhealthy. Additionally, accessible mental health support at a low cost is crucial. There are long-term impacts on an individual's overall health if overworking is not addressed.

As a profession, we are full of motivated, enthusiastic individuals who want to make a difference in their community and build a business they’re proud of. The traits and characteristics of real estate agents are some of the strongest to be had. It is easy to “keep going” when you’re so passionate about what you do for a living. However, taking the time to focus on your health and wellbeing is just as necessary for your work life as it is your personal life. It might just benefit your clients and business as a whole more than if you push yourself to work more than you should.