When my former partner informed me about wanting to separate, it came as an unexpected and unwelcome shock. As a senior manager responsible for a team of ten, I knew it was crucial to maintain composure at work, but I found it immensely challenging. The emotional toll was overwhelming – I couldn’t eat, I wasn’t sleeping well, nor could I focus for long periods of time without drifting into shock, misery or overwhelm.
Going through a divorce, separation or break up, is one of the most traumatic experiences someone will go through. It significantly impacts all aspects of wellbeing and life and is at the top of the stress continuum. Needless to say, navigating through this process while maintaining a high level of work performance, through what is a lengthy process, can be incredibly demanding.
Navigating professional responsibilities in the workplace, can be incredibly challenging. There are steps you can take to help yourself and prevent your professional life from crumbling. Just as you invest time in creating marketing plans, sales strategies, or client presentation decks, it's equally important to invest time in devising a plan for your personal well-being.
As female professionals, we understand the importance of maintaining our well-being while excelling in our careers. By nurturing ourselves with self-compassion and seeking support from understanding colleagues, friends, or professionals, we can emerge stronger and more resilient. Remember, you are not alone, and it's okay to seek help when needed. With dedication and a caring approach, we can overcome obstacles and continue thriving both personally and professionally.
Life can sometimes throw unexpected challenges our way, and it's essential to take care of ourselves during these moments. These are some tips and steps you can take that can help you navigate the separation and maintain your career.
Take some time off
If you find yourself facing a difficult period, remember that it's okay to take a few days off to come to terms with what's happening and take care of your emotional wellbeing.
If you have some annual leave available, consider strategically using it to give yourself the time and space you need. Taking a month-long escape might not be feasible, but taking a few days off here and there can be incredibly valuable for regrouping and finding clarity.
Make those days all about you and feel all the emotions you need to feel and then find ways to self-soothe, that work for you. If you normally work out, try to get to the gym. Take short walks outside, try yoga and listen to music that makes you feel good.
Use the time to create a plan for work. Include and consider the following:
- Tell Your Manager the Facts
Your manager needs to know what you’re going through, just as she or he should know that your parent is ill or has passed away, or whether you’re expecting a new baby.
The conversation can be confidential - keep it professional and stick to the facts. The key is to skip the sordid details and stick to logistics: you are going through a divorce, and although you may not be your old self, you are committed to your responsibilities as usual. This is also the time to say that you may require some flexibility as appointments with your lawyer, the bank etc, may be required along the way. If there is an HR department or person, they will be made aware through your manager.
If you plan to tell colleagues about your separation, make sure your manager knows first. This protects your relationship with them and protects your colleagues from any awkward situations with your manager as well.
- Have a Go-To Answer Prepared
It is important to have an answer prepared for when your co-workers ask ‘what’s up’ because they may recognise something is off. You don’t want to get derailed by the question when you are not expecting it. Something as simple as: “I’m currently going through something, but I’ll be fine. Thanks for asking”.
- Don’t Overshare
While it may be tempting to talk about your breakup with those you work with, avoid oversharing. It is ok to confide to a few about what you are going through if you’re close with them, but generally it’s better to keep details of your breakup to a minimum when at work. Disclosing too much information can also lead to a barrage of questions that you probably don’t want to deal with. Add to that, the more you tell your ‘story’, the more you are ‘IN your story’. Let work be your escape haven from your situation.
This will really help with your focus.
- Stay Busy
Maintain a busy and productive schedule at work. You can use this to distract yourself from your personal life. A good idea is to plan a few ‘post-it notes’ on your computer to aid your concentration. Write on one – What are my three priorities for the day?
The second – What are my three priorities for this week?
The third – What are my top three priorities this month?
Get into the habit of updating these first thing in the morning and then check these if and when your thoughts drift.
- Identify Quick Mood Boosters
Knowing what will help boost your mood will enable you to do that activity anytime you begin to feel down, without reaching for sugary or caffeinated foods and drink. For example, if listening to music uplifts you, have a few of your favourite tunes downloaded on your phone or work computer. Pop in your headphones and you’re good to go.
- Take Breaks
Your ability to focus for long periods of time may be difficult. If this happens, recognise it and place breaks in your calendar throughout the day to clear your mind and recharge. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, or do something that will help you relax and refocus on your role and priorities for the day.
- Practice Self-Care
As this can be one of the most stressful times in your life, you need to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Identify and build self-care into your daily and weekly routine, including your workday. Establishing good habits will make the world of difference to both your professional and personal life. This means committing to healthy eating (including work lunches) and minimising things like after-work drinks. Instead consider other activities, learn to mediate, hit the gym before work or during your lunch break, or get some fresh air and go for a walk.
If placing yourself at the top of your priority list is not something you are used to doing, think of it like this: what would you suggest a close friend do, to take care of herself if she was in your situation?
You cannot lead your team or support your children if you are barely keeping it together. You will be better able to provide for them what they need, if you take care of yourself.
- Spring Clean Your Desk
You don’t need to spend your workday staring at photos of your ex, a family holiday, or looking at a family picture all day. They will no doubt emotionally triggering and make it difficult for you to concentrate. Replace them. Replace them with something fresh, inspirational and motivating.
- Find support outside of work
Enlist the help of family, friends, neighbours, and other people you trust to not only provide a listening ear, but also to help with the practical things like picking up your children. Taking the little tasks off your plate can go a long way towards easing your stress.
- Avoid Ex Calls
If at all possible, avoid taking calls from your lawyer, your soon to be ex or others related to your separation during your workday. If you do need to speak to your lawyer or bank, schedule it for the end of the day and as for your soon to be ex, keep that for after hours.
- Get Professional Help
When going through a separation please know that you don’t have face it alone. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, remember – that is natural and don’t hesitate to seek help. Talking to someone outside your immediate circle can be incredibly beneficial. Just like how a therapist provides a safe space to air your thoughts and feelings, speaking to a professional like a financial planner, lawyer or Divorce Coach can help you navigate this transition with greater clarity and support.
Remember, you are not burdening others by seeking help; in fact, it will often feel like a weight lifted. Discussing and venting your situation with someone who understands the complexities of separation can provide the guidance and perspective you need to cope and move forward. Whether it's addressing emotional challenges, legal concerns, or simply finding a path forward, these professionals are equipped to assist you in handling the process more smoothly and often in a timelier cost effective manner than navigating it on your own.
Take care of yourself during this challenging time, both personally and professionally. Do not hesitate to reach out for support when you need it. Seeking that support means you are taking a proactive step towards healing and rebuilding your life. With the right guidance and support, you can navigate this difficult period and emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side. Take it from me – I never thought it would be possible given where I was at, but I’m living my best life. I’ve never been happier.
By Lisa Hubbard
To book at 15 minute complimentary call with either, Lisa Hubbard, Divorce Coach or Bridgette Jackson, Divorce Coach, Relationship Coach at Equal Exes click here