Just over a week ago, I returned to Atlanta from a seven-day trip to New York City for work. The trip was equal parts fun and equal parts exhausting, with late nights and early mornings. Our mornings required early wake-up calls because of various meetings and engagements on our calendars, but I’ll confess, all of those late nights were on me. Now, the weird thing was that we got back to our hotel rooms early enough for me to get ready for bed and fall asleep at a reasonable time. Say, by 11:00 p.m. at the latest. But sleep was far off — every single night, without fail.
I’ve realized this happens during every work trip I take, no matter if I’m in a huge city like New York or a smaller city like Buffalo. I stay awake later than I intend, and definitely much later than I’d ever allow on a weeknight at home in Atlanta.
It’s a pattern — a pattern that I thought was odd, at first. Until I thought about it some more and recognized this is not a strange pattern at all, for me.
And, here is where I shrug off every ounce of security and pride to become completely vulnerable.
Last year, I fell into the trap of letting work consume me — letting work consume my life, honestly. I thought I had everything under control. “Yes, things are intense. Yes, my plate is on the verge of spilling over,” I’d tell myself, “But it is still under control, I can still handle it. And it’ll all be better next week.”
Oh, the lies I’d tell to myself and others to keep up appearances — and I believed every one of them (so did everyone else). Too much was happening, too fast. My plate was already spilling over…and over…and over. I placed all of my effort into work without leaving any energy for the people I care about most, let alone for taking care of myself. And I subconsciously looked past all of this because I was in total denial.
It took getting to a very dark and unhappy and lonely place for me to see I was in far too deep. And I knew climbing my way out of that hole to set things straight again and flip my priorities right side up was going to take more than just a simple fix.
Months passed before I felt I’d hit reset and found my new normal — mentally, emotionally and physically. At times, I felt I was making no progress at all. But then slowly, I did. Thankfully.
With that backstory, it might be easy to see how sleep doesn’t always come quickly when I’m out of town for work. Though I have hit reset and found a new normal, the old habits don’t die. It’s easy to let my guard down, fall into the trap of not detaching from work and ease back into operating out of anxiety — that is, anxiety disguised as adrenaline and excitement.
And when I’m away from the comforts of home, that also means I’m away from my husband and family and friends. Away from the community that keeps me grounded and incessantly reminds me that, while work is hugely important to me, it does not come first on my list of priorities. It does not come above my faith or my husband or my family or my friends.
Again, I do feel a strong difference between my current state and where I was last year, and that’s encouraging. But this isn’t something I’ve fully figured out yet, which is quite evident from my trip to New York. So I continue to push forward, fighting my old habit of giving in to that age-old, infamous, American workaholism.
What about you — do you struggle with this same issue, or have you learned how to avoid succumbing to the pressure of workaholism? If you have advice, leave a comment. I’d love to hear it, as I’m sure many others would!