He could tell that he was going about this work business the wrong way. He knew he was stuck in a rut and couldn’t find the exit door, as long as there was one more thing to do. He had noticed certain habits that were becoming hard set for him in the past few months. He would lie to his wife about being elsewhere, yet he had actually been at work each of those times. He had a permanent preoccupation with work, it was constantly on his mind, sometimes even in his dreams. He had neglected himself and his family and he only had an eye for his job. But what got to the nerves of even his wife was the fact that he could not delegate anything to anyone, however good they were. He had to do everything by himself. “After all, they wouldn’t do it like I could”, he thought. He had acquired a new motto; “Who needs to get a life when you have work?”

Welcome to the world of Steve, the workaholic. You see, some of us can identify with Steve; we have probably been there or know someone who has. Most of those times, we assume that we can get over it at the snap of a finger, when we want. Well, that’s not always the case. There is a mechanism in each living creature that automatically presses the red button once certain limits have been exceeded or are brewing over to the ‘excessive’ side on the gauge. Indeed most, if not all
gadgets made by men operate strictly within certain capacities. They have self-destructing or self-disabling inbuilt systems that discontinue further functionality when the red lights go on. We who come up with all these advanced machines understand fully that they can only operate maximally with proper care. We ensure this is done by oiling them, changing worn out parts, making necessary repairs and of course allowing them to cool down in the event of overheating.

But how often do we take this dose of advice ourselves? We dish it out generously to others by the shovels, but look the other way when we need to take it. We ignore the blaring hooting that our systems let out when we dive into the deep end of the workaholic pool. Such compulsive tendencies towards work will continue to feed the malaise that is workaholism and which will remain an abiding visitor, albeit unwelcome.

In essence, we bleed our bodies to fatten our paychecks and eventually never enjoy the cash. Either because we secure the money and quickly run off in search of more, or end up spending all of it in treating self-inflicted illnesses. Only to get better and scamper back into the rat race, effectively missing the lesson.

Probably all these still sound strange to some. Perhaps the only familiar word that has registered so far is……you got it; WORK!! Well, there is still hope for you so let’s try look at this in a different way. Take a walk with me into the world of nature. Let the breeze caress your face and the rays of the sun warm your skin. Soak in the sounds around you. Notice that every living thing around you has its own clockwork and works equally hard, but within its set limits. The roots, branches, stems and leaves of the fruit trees, for example, all co-operate and work hard each day. They’re there to ensure
that luscious, succulent fruits are hanging at the end of their branches, ready for the hungry to feed on.

Each tree does the same thing year after year and I am yet to see any of them experiencing ‘work-related’ stress or suffering from workaholism. Even an inanimate thing as land knows when to call it quits and take a break when it is being ‘overworked’; Over-cultivated land that is not replenished with manure and the needful rest will yield poor crops, a clear red alert that all systems should shut down for ‘repair and maintenance’. So what should be done now that the diagnosis has been made? Am glad you asked. Some of the remedies may include;

v  Acquire the attitude of gratitude: Take healthy doses of it daily and appreciate that we have been given bodies that keep checks and balances. We are alerted promptly if things are taking a down turn towards work/stress related maladies. Were it not so, the epitaphs of most would read ’He died of work’.

v Learn to co-operate with that wonderful system that is your body. Stop at the red light when warnings are sent that workaholism is working unnecessary havoc. Proceed only when the green light goes on and this way, you may have prevented accidents (read stress-related conditions).

v Yes, work hard but remember you can only do so much in a day.  Let contentment accompany you home once your part is done for the day and let’s leave supermen and women to the movies and the entertainment world.
v Take a break to smell the coffee, or even notice the skyline. As it becomes a habit to have a work-life balance, you can watch your body reciprocate and thank you with improved health and a much calmer mind that is energized and ready for any task. How about putting these into practice and see who will be smiling all the way to work?


By Truphie Njiru

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