Breakups can take a toll on nearly every aspect of your life, including your work. If you’re coping with the loss of your relationship, you most likely find it hard to focus on things you enjoy, much less the mundane assignments you need to accomplish at your job. Practice these five habits to stay on task, even if your mind is somewhere else.
1. PRACTICE GOOD EMOTIONAL HYGIENE.
As tempting as it may be to sweep your feelings under the rug, it’s important to give yourself permission to process how you feel. As author and psychologist Dr. Leslie Newman explains, shutting down negative emotions only allows them to linger. So while you don’t want to dwell on the feelings, it’s important to give yourself time and space enough to let them pass. Otherwise, you might just prolong your heartache, making your work suffer for longer.
“If you allow emotional expression, you’ll find the hours at work bearable. And it is a bearing, but it will get better, albeit slowly," Newman says. "The intensity of the grieving will match the intensity of the loving, so take heart.”
You might channel your thoughts by journaling during your lunch break or simply talking about the breakup with friends. “The more you talk it out, sometimes the easier it can be to let it go,” says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at California State University Los Angeles. “Otherwise you may end up just ruminating about it.”
2. SCHEDULE AFTER-WORK ACTIVITIES.
During a breakup, you don’t always feel like going out and having a good time, but the thought of leaving the office and going home alone can be a huge, distracting bummer that keeps you from getting stuff done. Which is why Durvasula says it’s important to schedule activities that you can look forward to once you’re off the clock.
"Going home to an empty house or room at the end of day can be really tough," she says. "Set up a movie with friends, girls night, something to do that may keep you going through the day.”
3. TAKE SMALL STEPS.
When you're fresh off a breakup, the thought of spending nine hours at your desk can drive you to tears. Take it one small step at a time, says Durvasula. “Break the day into 15-minute chunks—just set a timer and get through it piece by piece. If you have a position or set-up that lends you some privacy, then after the 15 minutes you can take a break, have a cry, whatever. Before you know it, you will be going longer than 15 minutes.”
4. TRY A BREATHING EXERCISE.
Newman suggests adjusting the way you think about work. “Reframe the workplace as a safe place where you can focus on the mind and intellect versus the emotions and take a break from the grief,” she says.
This is much easier said than done, of course. And if your sadness or anger becomes too overwhelming, Newman suggests a specific breathing exercise to help you stay calm. “A simple technique is to sit in your desk chair with your spine straight, supported, and relaxed. Then, close your eyes or focus them downward. Breathe in for the count of four, like four heart beats, then hold your breath for a count of seven, then release the breath for a count of eight. Do this for three rounds … just breathing.”
From there, you can find a mantra to repeat—something as simple as, “all is well.” Newman says the mantra gives you something else to focus on when the pain seems like more than you can handle.
5. FOCUS ON SELF-CARE.
When you’re mourning your loss, it can be hard to juggle the demands of your work, and that often means neglecting your sleep schedule or skipping meals. “Food will taste like cardboard and sleep will be fitful, but try and do it, because if you are run down you will be even more distracted and unproductive,” Durvasula says. “If you have sick time or vacation time, this may be the time to take it. Even one day to cry it out could make a world of difference.”
Newman agrees and suggests doubling down on your self-care. “Take extra yoga classes, add another workout or run, set up some dates with your friends,” she says. “You may find yourself sobbing in pigeon pose or during that last quarter mile, or talking with friends. Know that this is normal.”