Once a week, a member of our community asks us for advice, and we answer right here on the blog. The question can be about anything, from love and relationships, to family or career. This week, we heard from Allie, who recently broke up with her boyfriend and is struggling to concentrate at work.
Q - Hi, I’m Allie. I really hope you can help me. My boyfriend of three years recently broke up with me and I’m heartbroken. It came out of the blue and it’s really hit me hard as I thought we were happy. I took a few days off work when it happened but now I’m back in and I can’t concentrate at all. Nobody except my closest work friend knows what’s happened because I can’t face telling them, so I have to keep running off to the toilets to cry in secret. I’m really embarrassed but I don’t know what to do. Do you have any advice?
A - Hi, Allie. I’m so sorry you’re going through such a difficult time right now. Breakups are difficult, especially when they take you by surprise like yours did. When a partner suddenly and unexpectedly leaves when you think you are both happy, it can make you question everything you knew, which adds confusion to the already overwhelming feelings.
The emotions we experience during a breakup are very similar to the grief we feel when a loved one dies, and it is understandable; though they are still alive, we essentially lose a partner when the relationship ends. Though many people stay friends afterwards, most find this difficult and eventually lose touch, and the idea of not seeing that person again can be difficult to process.
It’s tempting during this time to just lie in bed and hide from the world. This is completely natural for the first few days, however, unfortunately life goes on and we have responsibilities that we eventually have to face. Here are our tips for coping with work after a breakup.
Have an honest conversation with your boss
Though it’s a good idea to keep our work and private lives separate, sometimes we simply can’t help them overlapping. Many of us are lucky to have good relationship with our boss, but even if you aren’t particularly close, it’s important to remember that they are still human, and understand that you have a life outside of work, and will probably have been through one or two breakups themselves!
You said that you haven’t been able to face telling telling anybody about your breakup, and that is completely understandable. However, keeping it a secret and having to be sneaky about how you cope actually makes it more difficult to deal with.
Ask your boss for a quick chat, and tell them that you’re going through something personal at present, and that you are finding it hard to deal with. Explain that you want to work to the best of your ability, but you’re finding it difficult right now to give it 100%. Giving them a heads up is only fair, and a good boss will want to make things as easy as possible for you. However, remember that you and they have a job to do at the end of the day, so it’s important to show them that you’re still committed to your work!
One step at a time
Getting over a breakup takes time, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to move on. Simply getting out of bed and going back to work is the first step in the right direction. When you’re at work, focus on one thing at a time. After letting your boss and colleagues know what’s happened, the next step is to make it through the day without crying in the bathroom!
When your concentration levels are low, it’s important not to overwhelm yourself. Focus on small, quick and manageable tasks, one at a time. At the start of the day, make a to-do list, and then work on the list during the day, focusing on one item at a time.
Get stuck into a new project
One of the best things to do during a breakup is to keep yourself busy and distracted, so that you’re not constantly thinking about your ex. Work is a great way to do this! Once you’re back into the flow of work after a few days, it’s time to take the next step.
Whilst talking to your boss, tell them that you want to be busy, and ask if there’s any new projects that you can take charge of. It’s when your mind’s idle that it will stray to your ex, so being stuck in a boring and repetitive routine at work won’t help. Getting stuck into something that interests you will help keep your mind busy, and will give you a sense of achievement. Before too long, you’ll be thinking of your ex less and less during the day, and you will also be satisfied and proud of your work, which will give you a huge personal boost.
Schedule emotional breaks
Of course it’s not going to be all smooth sailing; you’re going to have days that are simply harder than others to get through. When you’re having a bad day, it’s important to go easy on yourself, and allow yourself to feel your feelings!
On these days, tell your best work friend that you’re struggling and could really use some support. Schedule in a special lunch and get out of the office; it could be to a coffee shop where you can talk, or it could be somewhere fun that will take your mind off things.
It takes months to fully get over a breakup, so give yourself time and be patient with yourself while you’re healing. Your family, friends and colleagues will all understand what you’re going through and should give you the support you need. Just remember, one step at a time.