How To Focus At Work While You're Heartbroken


Gabrielle White

The average American spends about 1,800 hours in the office each year. Unless you’re an apathetic robot, during some of those hours you may find your heart taking over the reins from your head. Surviving the emotional turmoil of heartbreak while trying to balance our work agendas can be taxing, if it doesn’t sometimes feel downright impossible. While there isn’t any one-size-fits-all method for putting yourself together enough to work, here are some strategies we’ve found can help you do your best when things aren’t going so swimmingly:

Remember your support system.

Having a support system can mean the difference between survival and a breakdown. Can you share what happened with a trusted co-worker? Doing this might help you feel less isolated in the workplace. Similarly, if you have a moment of surging pain blocking your focus (we’ve all been there), it may be helpful to reach out to a friend or family outside the office. Being able to text them updates or having a quick call at lunch may help you remember how much support you have, which may help make office time more bearable. Asking for help can be a sign of strength.

Focus on the big picture. 

Regardless of how and why the heartbreak happened, this moment is all part of a larger process: a process of letting go, of growing, of building a future that you want. Taking a few minutes before your day starts to imagine vividly your goals for this healing process may help give you the courage to stick with it while it’s tough.

Take it one day at a time.

Breathe. Seriously. It’s age-old advice that has saved us in many an SOS moment. Steal a moment to yourself in a quiet space. Fill your lungs deeply, and make sure to feel your chest expanding. Let your thoughts come and go, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this for as many minutes as you like.

Keep tabs on yourself.

Journal about your progress. Come home, make a note in your phone or a notepad about how today was. It’s easy to be discouraged at first, but we’ve found that when we’ve stuck with it, releasing feelings is cathartic, and watching our progress over time can be very encouraging.

Get organized.

Another tool to make it easier: whip out the calendar and the highlighter. Setting an agenda not only feels empowering, but it’s also a great way to force yourself to plan fun outings, even if you’re only up to them every now and then. Having a date with yourself in the calendar can actually be very romantic.

Find solace in rituals.

Rituals and routines can be a source of comfort. Some women burn photos, others might head home for family time. For a more office appropriate strategy, find something you can do to briefly take your mind off things. Personally, I used to light a candle whenever my mental chatter was unbearable. I can’t say why it was comforting to me, but it was. Similarly, exercise and listening to that perfectly-curated playlist immediately before or after work can help incentivize you and provide a release.

Celebrate small victories.

It may seem silly, but positive affirmation can be a helpful nudge when you need it most. Even things that seemed like routine tasks before an emotional trauma can sap the life out of you. When you successfully do the little things, take a moment to notice you did it, and actually congratulate yourself. Celebrate your tiny victories, even when they feel trivial or inconsequential.

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