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Last Updated on January 3, 2022

How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work

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How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work

You’ve finally reached the end of your workday—a day that started with you skimming hours from sleep to get a jump-start on your to-do list. It continued with you eating lunch at your desk to avoid losing momentum, ignoring calls from family and friends to fend off feelings of guilt about not working, and adding new projects to your plate after finishing up others. You’ve managed to reject anything that resembles a break so you can stay firmly focused on your work performance and success. Now, you’re exhausted. And, let’s be honest: you’re also addicted to working.

There’s some part of you that knows this and understands the urgency with which you need to conjure personal courage to confront the unhealthy, underlying causes of your obsessive work style.

But, for now, the only mental energy you can muster is the bit that’s required to figure out how to relax quickly so you can do it all over again tomorrow.

Are You a Workaholic?

In simple terms, a workaholic is a person who is obsessed with working, be it in the office, at home, on holiday, or even during a break. Although the term was first coined in the early 1970s, work addiction hasn’t gathered much attention as a mental health condition.

On the surface, it may seem the person is only trying to stay on top of their game or have their work under control but the issues with it run deep.

Individuals tend to fixate on working extra hours at the office since they become emotionally, socially, and physically dependent on that work. This can lead to unhealthy dependence where a person cannot separate work life and personal life.

Signs and Symptoms of Work Addiction

You can only effectively tackle work addiction when you understand what the signs of work addiction look like. It is still easy to identify work addiction in others, but to find it within yourself, requires you to be self-aware.

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If you or someone you know has work addiction, the most common signs are:

  • They’re constantly thinking of freeing up more time to get work done even if there’s no pending deadline.
  • The hobbies that they were once good at have been long abandoned in hopes of achieving work-related progress in their professional life.
  • They have an unhealthy obsession with work-based success. If asked about themselves or their life, work is the highlight of their story.
  • Their family members or loved ones have started to complain about feeling distant, ignored, and even unloved.
  • They use work to avoid responsibilities, confrontations, feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression. If something bad happens, they use that frustration in their work.
  • They have constantly started losing sleep either working or thinking about work and it has made them cranky and have mood swings.

From the aforementioned signs, it is clear that work addiction doesn’t just affect the individual suffering from it, it can have an impact on those around them as well. Once you identify these signs in yourself and realize you have work addiction, you need to address it too.

Problems Associated With Work Addiction

Although work addiction may seem like a common thing, which it is, there isn’t much talk about the problems associated with it. In most cases, individuals spend a lot of time working long hours which negatively impacts their mental health.

Sometimes they work to avoid the issues or realities of real-life and find work to be their safe space. However, this makes it very easy for them to disconnect from reality and be caught up in unhealthy work patterns that impact their physical health as well.

Here are some of the most common issues with work addiction:

  • One starts losing touch with their personal and family life. They start distancing the people closest to them by shutting them out.
  • Physical health is negatively impacted, as workaholics often do not get enough sleep, rest, food, and exercise. It can lead to migraines, spine issues, and other problems.
  • Workaholics lose touch with their societal obligations and shy away from their social circles. They are hardly ever seen at events and become introverted.
  • On a psychological level, workaholics may become dependent on work and abuse their bodies past the point of exhaustion.
  • In the case they have low workloads or lose their job suddenly, they are prone to feeling vulnerable and may resort to destructive behavior due to agitation.

How to Overcome Work Addiction

Here are 5 temporary solutions to try out to ease the tension of mental exhaustion from being addicted to work until you’re ready to put in the courageous effort to change your approach to work.

1. Take a Walk Around the Block

Once you close your computer and step away from your desk, kick on your walking shoes and head outside. Walking has long been identified as a way to relax the mind and the body. In fact, research has shown that a brisk walk can relieve stress and tension similar to how aspirin relieves a headache. [1]

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The reason for this has to do with how this low-impact exercise triggers the release of endorphins or brain chemicals that stimulate relaxation. [2] If your work addiction has left you with limited time, you’re in luck. A walk as short as 10 minutes can provide the stress-relieving benefits you need to reset your mind.

If work has depleted you’re energy to the point where a vigorous walk seems like more trouble than it’s worth, you can try a slower-paced walking meditation to help you unwind. Mindful walking is practiced within many forms of Buddhism and focuses on walking with reverence. This means that each step is taken with intentional breathing, whole-body awareness, and deep gratitude. Mindful walking is meant to bring your body and mind together peacefully and can help you relax in as little as 10 minutes.

If you’d rather unwind with a little less movement, give a weighted blanket a try.

2. Crawl Up Under a Weighted Blanket

For many people, taking a nap is an ideal antidote for restoring the body and brain after many hours of work. If you are addicted to work, however, you may not be able to easily disconnect from unfinished projects and allow yourself to drift off to sleep.

A weighted blanket may be able to help. This type of blanket ranges from 5 to 30 pounds and is designed to help you feel snug and secure like a comforting hug. In theory, the blanket provides “pressure therapy,” which helps to settle your nervous system and lower your heart rate when you are stressed. [3] Pressure therapy can increase the amount of serotonin and oxytocin released in the brain, which can lead to a sense of calm.

Some experts recommend staying under a weighted blanket for 20-30 minutes. However, the duration is up to you depending upon how much comfort and relaxation you feel. Once you’ve snuggled underneath a weighted blanket, you may find your way to sleep in no time.

However, if a weighted blanket alone doesn’t seem to be doing the trick to help you relax quickly, you may want to add music to the mix.

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3. Turn on Otis Redding

Music is often a go-to resource to stimulate good vibes. If you’re addicted to work and looking for a way to release the built-up tension generated from your intense focus on productivity, power up your favorite music streaming service and turn on some soothing sounds. Research shows that “music around 60 beats per minute can cause your brain to synchronize with the beat” and create alpha brainwaves. [4] These are the helpful brainwaves that appear when you are relaxed.

You might be wondering what type of music comes in at 60 beats per minute. Think Otis Redding. Spotify features a playlist called “60 bpm” that includes several of Redding’s songs like “My Girl” and “These Arms of Mine.” If you’re not a fan of old-school jams, you’ll find other artists and songs on the list as well. You can also do your own research to create a custom playlist that’s immediately ready when you need it the most.

When choosing relaxing music to listen to, keep in mind that you don’t want to simply turn to a tune because science says so. Listening to music that doesn’t appeal to you might have the opposite calming effect that you’re going for.

4. Say Cheese

Smiling is easy, quick, and loaded with relaxation benefits. All it takes is getting past the awkwardness of sitting down or walking around with a grin on your face for no reason other than to unwind. Research shows that an act as simple as smiling can be effective in reducing the intensity of the body’s stress response and lowering heart rate levels after stressful activities. [5] And all of this can happen regardless of whether you actually feel happy.

When you smile, your brain releases dopamine and endorphins, which are chemical messengers that help to lighten your mood. This makes smiling a sneaky—yet effective—way to trick your brain into helping you feel good.

As a bonus, research shows that smiling can help you look more attractive. In a study conducted at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, participants found men and women who made eye contact and smiled to be more good-looking than those who did not. [6]

If you really want to take your relaxation up a notch, try smiling while lying on the floor.

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5. Lie on the Floor

If being addicted to work has left you in a severe state of exhaustion that the only thing you can think to do is lay flat on the floor, you’re closer to relaxation than you may realize. The Alexander Technique, named after a Shakespearean actor, offers up a specific way to lie on the floor so that you release tension in your muscles. [7]

The technique, also known as Constructive Rest, involves turning on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. In addition to helping you relax, the specific position supports spinal alignment. [8] Be sure not to get too cozy, though. Lying on the floor for an extended period of time could lead to soreness and stiffness. You only need to hold the Alexander Technique for a few minutes to feel a sense of ease, and practicing each day can lead to longer-lasting results.

The Bottom Line

Being addicted to work can bring on an unbearable amount of tension and unease that leaves you with an urgent desire to find relief. But until you can conjure the courage to transform your approach to work and success, that relief is destined to be temporary. There are several methods, backed by science, that can help bring about a brief sense of relaxation.

Walking has been proven to release neurochemicals that are responsible for easing stress. Positioning yourself under a weighted blanket has been thought to provide pressure therapy, which helps settle your nervous system.

On top of that, listening to music at a specific rhythm can cause your brain to create alpha waves—the waves that are generated when you are relaxed. You may also try lying on the floor. The right horizontal position can help you release the built-up tension that comes from working overtime. The simplest and quickest way, though, for those addicted to work to bring about a sense of calmness is by cracking a smile. Smiling has been shown to reduce the body’s stress response.

Now, if you’re an overachiever in figuring out how to relax, just a much as you are an overachiever at working, consider walking around the block, returning home, turning on smooth sounds, lying on the floor with a weighted pull on top of you, closing your eyes, and smiling concurrently.

More Tips on Leading a Balanced Life

Featured photo credit: XPS via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Anxiety & Depression Association of America: Exercise for Stress and Anxiety
[2] Prevention: How To Walk To Relieve Your Stress
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help
[4] the University of Nevada, Reno: Releasing stress through the power of music
[5] Association for Psychological Science: Grin and Bear It! Smiling Facilitates Stress Recovery
[6] Psychology Today: There’s Magic in Your Smile
[7] Harvard Health Publishing: The Alexander Technique can help you (literally) unwind
[8] BodyIntelligence: Stress Reliever: The Alexander Technique Practice of Lying Down

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Candace Doby

Speaker, author and coach helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

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