The workaholic versus the balanced me. COVID-19 edition

Updated: Mar 17, 2021


I’m aiming for a sense of balance. I often picture balance as a way of being in which things have their own space, and where energy is expended in the right measures. And let me tell you, when it feels daunting, that’s because it is! Imagine our bodies, how they reach the ideal organic balance called homeostasis. Multiple organs and systems all working in a coordinated manner in order to maintain that sought-after balance. Our bodies usually have this whole process under control, except when our ideas of what is best for us interfere.


Why am I thinking about this today? It may appear totally unrelated, but that’s how nonlinear matters of BEING-WELL really are. I was recently given homework by my own therapist: to reflect on the beliefs that are driving a recent surge of workaholism. This is an important thing for me to pay attention to when my genetic tendency is towards chronic pain from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention the regular workaholic hangover: relentlessly pushing myself to the point of feeling like an overcooked noodle, snappiness towards my loved ones, and constant unrelenting thoughts that my brain can’t stop. The energy inside me that drives this workaholism feels like I’m in a never-ending race.


My reflections started when I woke up this morning - thankfully after a good night’s sleep. I intentionally focused on my body, searching for sensory information in the form of temperature, tension, and any other feelings. In somatic psychotherapy, we call this kind of activity ‘getting in touch with our felt sense’. Breathing, and making contact with parts of my body that were signaling more sensations to me, I found a slight tightening and pressure starting on the right side of my chest. Perhaps it felt mo

woman balancing her life and work selves
Self awareness can support us in balancing workaholic tendencies

re like a stretched tissue, or maybe it was an ache. I noticed that the tissue around my shoulders and neck had a sensation of pulling and tightening. Getting in touch directly with this energy gave me a choice, and I decided in that moment to breath into it.


More importantly, I love to remind myself that by using my body as a resource, by connecting with it and listening to it, I always find a reliable, inexhaustible, and rich source of information, always giving, always available. This allowed my mind to trace back to the recent events that lead to this new wave of workaholism.


My memory brought me back to feelings associated with the unpredictable nature of our time. Feeling trapped, no office to see my clients face to face, things being out of order, the pace of everything slowing down, not only for me, but for many people that I’m close to and I care about and care for. I remembered the exhaustion and the fatigue and my desperate need for a break. I remembered the light-bulb moment when my thought pattern switched to a need to fix and control my feelings of discomfort after many months. I remembered thinking that I didn’t need to endure feeling helpless, that I could fix the problem; that this was the time to put my great ideas to work and channel my energy properly. Without realizing, I was swimming in a sea of business and 12-hour days, and the desire that my energy would never be exhausted. I even felt grateful: this is exactly what I needed to push through and do and create and envision. Finally, a sense of aliveness, excitement and a sense of purpose, a clear aim to push though: I could do this!


Weeks after drinking my workaholic beverage, I couldn’t stop. But today I have a clear somatic sense of the energy, thoughts and beliefs behind it, emerging easily but also uncomfortably familiar. I only exist if I produce. If I don’t produce, my ideas will vanish. And yet I haven’t been this motivated in a while! I can’t reach my goals or be successful unless I work extra hard, I want and need things now. Phew, this is getting exhausting, I think to myself.


After a few months of shuffling through each day with work (and more work), I’m also watching everything else in my life, including my self-care routines, my desire to have time for myself, the sense of being pulled in opposite directions, and playing constant catch up! My perfectionist (and dance loving) self is having a ball, with the whole dancefloor to herself. But it’s still not enough.


Don’t get me wrong, this type of energy is so compulsive, because I love the drive and focus, I can forget about everything… I mean everything. Pandemic, what pandemic? Now I have the perfect excuse to minimize and disregard the impact of the present time in my heart and mind. A perfect way to ignore the chaos, the feeling of being stuck, the numbness, perhaps even the grief. That’s the aholic in the workaholic me. She thrives on the high, the sense of power, the being in control and on top of everything, while masking weakness, the vulnerability of not knowing where she’s going. The workaholic me is also brutal: no pain-no gain.


Yet on the other side, I now recognize, and feel, and reconnect with the calmness around me, the enjoyment in listening to a good song, to being present enough to let my body be moved. I can get in touch with the non-worry feelings, I can move to my next thought with ease and trust in myself that I can carry on with my day at a pace that allows me to be present. Like a gift, a few thoughts appear like the most beautiful mantras during my homework to find out about the underlying beliefs behind my recent workaholic behavior. I am more than enough the way I am, and I deserve to live every moment in my life. It is enough to be present and simply be.


And now, I remember. When I’m in a state of BEING-WELL, I breathe more fully, and hold my thoughts and sensations for longer, and the pace within me feels just right, even for a moment. The sense of balance I had been looking for has arrived!

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