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By Ali Psiuk, MFTi

Let’s face it – Most of us in the Bay Area have a little workaholic in us and need to press pause and self-reflect. In Japan work burn out is called “karoshi,” or death by overwork, and is called “leisure illness” in the Netherlands. In the U.S., working hours have steadily risen over the years, so much so that currently, 1 in 6 employees work more than 60 hours per week. Blurring the lines between work and home life is an ideological imperative in the tech-heavy Bay Area, and comes with side effects. In the tech-heavy Bay Area, it seems to be an ideological imperative to blur the lines between work and home life. This blurring comes with side effects.

Work addictive tendencies are the most socially accepted (and in some cases required) of all the addictions.  High-stress workers and executives become accustomed to the chemicals of cortisol and adrenaline, and over time may develop a kind of addiction to those hormones. Resulting challenges such as deteriorating relationships, a decline in health, and sleep difficulties can be back-burnered as our capacity to produce is championed.  Ironically, overworking oneself can lead to a decrease in productivity and eventually, burnout.  In addition to putting a strain on relationships and health, taking on extra projects and working longer hours can also serve as a way to mask anxiety, low self-esteem, and intimacy problems.

Some easy ways to help keep your work/life balance in check:

1. Avoid checking work email after you leave the office (try keeping a separate app on your phone for work and personal email).

2. When socializing with friends or your partner, choose non-work topics to explore.

3. Schedule one non-competitive activity each day to start reprioritizing relationships, recreation, reflection time, and generosity.

4. Focus on one activity at a time without a sense of urgency. 

5. Fiercely guard your weekends and use them for a list of activities to engage in for purely aesthetic enjoyment (e.g. visit a museum, attend a concert, take a hike in the woods, take a painting lesson) and begin to incorporate these into your life.

A therapist can help you to implement a fresh attitude towards life that allows for a new pattern of living and can aid you in reaching a balance between work and social time.  Therapy can help tease out influences such as social and institutional norms and family culture to unearth what may be driving unconscious beliefs around performance.  Coming to therapy in a work-driven society can be a radical investment in the self and can possibly increase efficiency and professional longevity.

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