QUESTION: I am a 45-year-old accountant who is a workaholic. I put in 60-plus hours a week. I enjoy my work and pay is excellent, but I’m realizing more and more that I’m not having any fun in life. As time goes on, I’m becoming more and more stressed and I don’t really know why. I think what I need is some work/play balance, but I don’t even know where to begin. Can you tell me where to start?—Jonathon
ANSWER: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Jonathon! And I give you credit for recognizing that you’re a workaholic and that there is a lack of balance in your life that could quickly result in burnout. There comes a point in every day when even a workaholic needs to log off and go home to a nutritious meal, a jog in the park, or share time with loved ones. As with any new endeavor, you need to start small. Change takes time and if you concentrate on one goal at a time, the chances of being successful are better than if you take on too much at once. Is there a location close by work where you can take a 10-minute walk each day? What about actually taking half an hour each day for lunch? If you think you would enjoy working out, is there a gym near your office? If so, sign up and start by leaving work only one hour earlier to work out. Do you have any colleagues you enjoy? Suggest going out for a glass of wine or a beer on a Friday afternoon. Have you always wanted to know more about the night sky? Or kayaking or rock climbing? Or birdwatching? Sign up for an evening class at your community college. The main point is to find your fun wherever it may be. Once you get the hang of finding your balance, you will want to cut back on those work hours and spend your time enjoying all that life has to offer. This is the essence of self-care that sustains and energizes us.
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Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor Amazon.com.