Going through a divorce is hard. Even when it’s amicable. And when you have a job to go to, it can be an unwelcome distraction. How do you keep going at work when your personal life is falling apart?
In my experience, there are three main things you should focus on to help you get through this difficult time and still maintain a productive work life.
The first centres around your boss and co-workers. Do you tell your work colleagues that you are going through a divorce? Most people will tell you no and to limit those “in the know” to your boss and HR. This is good advice.
While it may be tempting to tell people you work closely with, the office/work grapevine can result in your personal life spreading far beyond your comfort zone. This can create unwanted attention, sympathetic looks or judgement that you simply don’t need.
It’s important for your manager to know. Like any major life event, it can affect your work. When your manager is aware of your situation they have the opportunity to be more accommodating to your needs, such as time off to handle appointments or even to help delegate some of your workload if you become overwhelmed and need some time off.
You should also let your HR department know, especially if you need to update insurance or pension options. They can also help if you need to change to a more flexible work schedule to accommodate added responsibilities around childcare.
Secondly, you need to take care of your mental health. The early stages of a divorce can be the hardest and most emotionally draining. If you can, it’s important to take some time off work to give yourself time to grieve and come to terms with your new reality – just as you would if you lost a loved one. Even if it’s only a few days, this time off can help you come to terms with your situation and feel all the emotions you need to feel without worrying about work. And keep track of your vacation and sick days so that you can take a day off here and there when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed again.
Take care of your physical health too as this directly impacts your mental health. Avoid overindulging in alcohol, get plenty of exercise – even if you just go for walks to get fresh air and clear your head – and eat healthy meals. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by “carbing up” with a junk food binge, but building self-care into your routines both at home and at work will help you get through this difficult time.
Finally, give your work focus. Work can be a welcome distraction at this time. It gives you something to focus on besides yourself and gives you a purpose and control over something when your personal life is feeling out of control. Work can also give you a place to feel “normal” and “needed” when you may not be feeling either right now.
This doesn’t mean that you should throw yourself back into work to the point it becomes all consuming. This is not healthy either. Keep your work at work and ensure you still maintain balance with your other responsibilities, especially children, as well as taking care of yourself.
Your work life can be a place of safety and stability during a divorce. By keeping a focus on your career, while maintaining your physical and mental health, you can set yourself up for a better life post divorce.