A project planning meeting was going for more than an hour when Annie – one of the project team members – started crying.
There were a lot of puzzled looks around. Are you ok? – The Chair of the meeting asked. But Annie couldn’t muster her answer between her sobs. The situation was awkward, meeting stuck and people feeling helpless, not knowing how to help.
There was nothing we could do. Annie was caught up in grief over her pet who passed away that week. Grief often comes in waves – one minute we’re ok, another we’re choking on your own tears.
We treat our personal and work lives as separate entities, marked by clear demarcation lines, but they blur in the worst possible moments.
There are thousands of books about the stress of work impact at home and how to deal with it.
Much less we talk about the reverse – when our personal life impacts our work.
Have you been in such a difficult situation at home that it undermined your focus, productivity, and delivery at work? Did you give yourself time to manage your emotions, or ‘pulled through’, hoping for the best?
You might have been seduced by a pull towards using work as a distraction, numbness, and compartmentalization. None are the healthiest ways to cope.
Here are 4 things you can do if grief threatens to overwhelm at work:
1. Practice emotional self-awareness. will help you understand how strong your grief is and whether you are able to work at all! It will also validate your emotion, making them more manageable and bringing relief.
2. Reach out to your support network. Sadness is an emotion of connection – it tells others that you don’t have a lot of energy to take care of yourself so others step in. I managed to do this in the middle of stage 4 lockdown, knowing it’s crucial.
3. Give heads up to colleagues about going through a hard time. Don’t overshare – note to others your need to be safe and it will do the job. A heads up to others, you raise their awareness and gave them direction on what they can do it.
4. When alone, pay attention to one task at a time. It’s always a good idea to be single-tasking, but when you grief, better avoid tasks that make drifting is likely (let’s face it, meetings are ideal for that). If you can, consciously choose the more difficult tasks requiring concentration. This will get you through the day and make you feel a sense of achievement too.
And most of all, put self-care at the top of your list.