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Why do some workaholics get sick and others stay healthy?

November 27, 2017

By Mary Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Is it possible to be a workaholic and stay healthy?  According to a recent article I read, yes. But it depends on if your heart is in it or not.

A recent study done by a British Columbia researcher, Lieke ten Brummelhuis, assistant professor of management at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Vancouver, found that it all depends on whether you are driven by compulsion or passion.  Her study was recently published in the Academy of Management Discoveries.

Her research showed that not all workaholics experience the detrimental effects of high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease that workaholism has been known to cause.  She discovered that the level of engagement in the job made a big difference.  While those highly engaged and less engaged all experienced headaches, muscle aches, and depressive feelings; it didn’t cause long term, critical health problems in those workers that were highly engaged and passionate about their work.  It seems to be a result of their coping mechanisms.  “Engaged employees found more support at home, but also from their co-workers and supervisors. They also had better time management and communication skills,” said Dr. ten Brummelhuis.

I have found this to be true in my life.  For me, my coping mechanisms include getting a quality nights rest, making time for myself, and support at home.  A while back I blogged about my need for sleep.  While many workaholics, and people in general, can survive on four to five hours a sleep at night; I cannot.  I work hard, but I also make time to get a healthy eight to nine hours of sleep at night.  If I don’t get the sleep I need, I cannot function at my full capacity the next day, and if I miss sleep too many nights in a row I will begin to feel rundown and often get sick.

I also have a terrific support system of a few close friends and a large family.  I am able to confide in them and discuss my day. This can do wonders for clearing my mind so that I can “check out” from time to time.  It’s not always easy to turn my mind off, especially if I have heavy decisions weighing on me.  But sometimes just talking them out with someone I can trust and who is completely objective is very helpful.  It’s important to be able decompress and then disconnect if even for an hour in the evening.

Another important strategy I use to keep myself healthy and prevent burnout is ensuring that I make time for myself.  I often get stressed out just looking at my calendar!  I make sure to schedule in time for myself, because I know that if I don’t that time slot will get filled with something else.  I make a point to schedule in gym time – although I’ll confess I’ve been know to cancel on myself for that one.  But seeing it on my calendar does help me commit to taking care of myself.

So many of us are in positions that require us to always be “on.”  I’d love to hear what your coping mechanisms are.  We can all learn from each other.  Email me at

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