Ending a relationship pretty much always hard, especially around Valentine's Day. It undoubtedly affects your emotions, and your emotions dictate your behavior. It makes sense, then, that it would be difficult at times to stay totally on-task at work when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a split. Though you may be hurting on the inside, the good news is that there are lots of little ways you can make sure you keep up with your workload.
Here are nine tips and tricks from relationship therapists and top HR pros for honing in on what matters at work, even when your mind is elsewhere.
1. Use work as a distraction.
In a healthy way, of course. “Focusing on work is not a healthy coping skill if it goes too far and you are avoiding the breakup and your feelings altogether, however, your job can serve as a healthy distraction to cope with the loss you’re feeling,” explains Lisa Bahar, a therapist based in California. While throwing yourself completely into work is too extreme, fully engaging when you’re in the office will help take your mind off of what’s going on. Bahar advises switching off your cell phone and staying away from social media while at the office. Instead, put your focus on actively participating in what’s going on at work. Devote your attention to one thing at a time versus multi-tasking, as this helps decrease anxiety and keeps your brain busy. She also suggests that you leave on time and don’t go in early—you need those hours outside the office to take care of yourself more now than ever.
2. Stay mentally and physically healthy.
On a similar note, Nancy Halpern, executive coach, recommends that you keep up with any healthy habits you have. “Eat right, sleep, exercise, and reach out to your friends and family,” she advises. “They are your best support network and they're separate from your work life.” It’s true that the majority of the venting you do about your split should happen outside the office, so call the people you know you can count on to help you stay on top of your mental health. Now’s also when you can take the time to do things you maybe didn’t have time for before, like cook yourself healthy dinners, go to the gym as much as you want, and finally get around to incorporating a quick morning meditation into your routine.
3. Confide in one or two trusted coworkers.
But don’t tell everyone. Halpern also suggests letting one or, at most, two coworkers in on the fact that you just went through a breakup. You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty details with them (and shouldn’t) but it’s a good idea to have an ally if you need one.“ Ask them to help by taking you out for short breaks so you can recharge, like grabbing a cup of coffee or taking a walk around the block,” she suggests. “They can also be ‘spotters’ if you feel weepy or are looking disengaged.”
4. Try batching.
If you’re having a hard time staying on track at work, it could be the perfect opportunity to try out a new productivity technique, like batching. “Batch together tasks that you frequently do so that you can be more effective,” says Brittany King, senior recruiter and founder of The Career Collective. “This will help you stay focused by keeping you on task.” New ways of organizing your day can help you keep your mind on what you’re doing, rather than dwelling on your breakup or getting wrapped up in your feelings.
5. Work with other people when possible.
“Interacting with other people rather than doing solo work tucked in a back office is a good way to distract yourself,” says Gretchen Kubacky, a psychologist based in California. If there’s a department meeting you normally would skip or you have a chance to work on a team-based project, now’s the time to go for it. When you’re engaging with others, you have less time to think about what’s going on in your personal life.
6. Don’t go overboard.
While it’s definitely advisable to concentrate on a specific task that you can devote yourself to, tackling the biggest project you can find immediately after a breakup is a bad idea. “You'll probably just get overwhelmed, which will make you feel worse about yourself,” explains Halpern. Keeping your self-esteem high when you’re vulnerable is important, so choose projects where you know you can succeed through hard work.
7. Make new habits.
You’re probably making new habits and routines outside of work, and you should definitely be doing it in the office, too. For example, “if your habit is to pick up the phone and text your now ex throughout the day, replace that with another habit such as taking a quick walk, drinking a bit of water, or texting a friend,” suggests King. Before you know it, the new routine will feel like second nature.
8. Make plans after work.
If you feel super alone during your time outside of work, that emotional distress might seep into your office life. “Schedule lots of things to do, from movies with friends, to dinner with family, to taking a new course at a local college,” says Halpern. “Schedule yourself three or four nights a week out so that you have lots of things to look forward to.”
9. Use a to-do list.
It’s simple tactic, but an effective one. “At the end of the workday, make a list of what you need to accomplish for the following day,” says King. “This will guide you through your workday and help you stay laser-focused when your mind is tempted to wander,” she notes. Not having to wonder what you should work on next will definitely leave you less time to think about your breakup.