By Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish, Ed.D, MSS, MA
It should be a terrific experience to be in love–with the right person, that is. But a happy relationship takes two, and if your love life problems are spilling over into your work life, then you might be with the wrong guy or you’re handling your issues in ineffective ways. In my research about the love problems of today’s competent women, I’ve discovered these top warning signs that the mismanagement of your love problems is affecting your work. Of course, even in the best of relationships, our reactions to difficulties can spill over into our work week (or months!). Some life events such as divorce or loss of a loved one can intensify feelings over time in all of us. I’ve included the top solutions, but you’ll probably tailor them to fit you and your situation. The overall goals are to recognize that your emotions have highjacked your life and to do something to take back some reasonable control. Remember, experiencing sadness, loss, hurt or anger are normal human reactions. Unpleasant, yes. But blocking them out can result in unexpected eruptions, and giving in to them can derail your work effectiveness.
Top Warning Signs and Solutions for Love Highjacking Your Work Life
1. You spend a lot of time crying.
Solution: Crying is actually a good thing. Tears of emotional pain have a different chemical composition than tears of joy. Tears from pain, sadness or fear contain toxins. Crying is your body’s natural cleansing process to rid you of these harmful elements. No wonder people tend to feel better after a short cry. So, get preventive. During rough times, take a cry-break in the morning and afternoon. Go to the rest room or your car, close the door to your office or find a spot in the nearby park. It doesn’t matter where you go, but get to that place and have a cry. You only need a few minutes to rid yourself of the toxins.
2. You spend a lot of time writing or checking your e-mails or text messages. Or, you have frequent private conversations with your partner. You just can’t seem to go very long without talking to each other to “clear things up.” Soon, you lose your ability to concentrate at work.
Solution: Love spats spill over into work in waves. Things are calm for a while, but, then, BOOM!—a wave of regret or anguish hits you by surprise. Unfortunately, unfinished business gnaws at us the most. We think, oh, if only I had said this—or not done that. No matter how much we focus on work, that compulsion to finish it or get it right pops up. It especially likes to scream for attention exactly when you are about to do something at work that you don’t like or have difficulty accomplishing.
Try these tricks. Take a break AFTER you’ve tackled the most difficult or unpleasant task. You’ll feel more competent when you’ve overcome the obstacle and will increase your ability to face your private issues. Then, you can go into the bathroom for a cry. Or, take about a ten to fifteen minute break to jot down your thoughts in a journal that you keep in your drawer or handbag—INSTEAD of communicating with your partner. Unless there is an absolute need for a decision, tell your partner that you cannot discuss your problems until after work. Do NOT check your emails or phone for messages.
Make a To Do List for the Morning and another one for the afternoon. Do the most urgent and/or most difficult ones first. Then, take a mini-break to stretch, breathe, go for a quick walk, jot down notes to yourself or whatever else works to clear your mind and soul. Finally, build in a system of rewards for each time you’ve been successful at completing work tasks and staving off the urge to communicate with your partner. For example, one woman in my study “rewarded” herself by allowing fifteen minutes to explore cruises on line. Eventually, you will find that you’ll become more productive at work.
4. You tell too many colleagues at work about your problem. Soon, you feel extremely isolated and stressed.
Solution: A general guide about work friendships often states “Friendly to all, friends to none.” Be very careful about disclosing troubling aspects about your personal life. Today’s colleague can be tomorrow’s boss. But telling no one can make you feel brittle, fragile and lonely. Some solutions that have worked for many of the women in my study include: Permit yourself to call one personal friend once or twice a week for a few minutes to get a pep talk or discuss your thoughts. Or, jot down your thoughts in your journal. If you are coming in to work with the red eyes from crying, fight the urge to “tell all.” One woman said she was getting allergy-tested and was having bad reactions. Of course, if you are very savvy and have located that one colleague whom you can really trust, then save your time with them for after work hours. Grab a cup of coffee or tea—no alcohol because it’s a depressant.
5. You come in late to work.
Solution: It’s never a good idea to come into work late. If you are doing this repeatedly, it’s likely that for some time you have not been sleeping well at night or that you are discussing your love problems with your partner in the “before work hours.” Do NOT have pre-work conversations. These conversations tend to be so intense that they impede your performance. If your partner calls, tell him or her that you cannot talk now. If your sleep problems continue, consult your physician. Do NOT start taking a soup of over the counter drugs.
6. You take too much time off because of your problems.
Solution: Love problems love time and space—and they’ll take up as much as you give them. If you can’t contain them with the kinds of solutions that I’ve discussed above, then you might want to consider therapy. Finding a good therapist takes time. You just can’t pick one out of the phone book. If you know about therapists whom your friends like and use, you can call that therapist. However, therapy requires that you feel a good connection with the therapist, and whom your friends like could differ from your choice. Go to professional websites such as www.nasw.org (National Association of Social Workers) or www.apa.org (American Psychological Association) and go to the find/locate a therapist in your area who specializes in relationships. You might have to try out a few before you find a good fit. But don’t give up—you’re worth it!
7. You are getting sick frequently.
Solution: Depression, loss and stress can seriously compromise your immune system. Get proactive. Wash your hands frequently. Eat vegetables and protein. Most importantly, get into a fitness regime. If you aren’t good at self-discipline, form a walking or work out group with friends or colleagues. Or, join a club and hire a fitness trainer twice a week. If you think you can’t afford clubs and trainers, check out the cost of your local YMCA. If you still think you can’t afford fitness, keep a Spending Log over the next few weeks. Jot down EVERYTHING—coffee, magazines, new nail polish, box of cookies. Well, you get the point. You’d be amazed at how much these items add up. Perhaps you can squeeze in the cost of fitness if you stop spending money in other areas.
Check out my website, www.lovevictory.com and follow the love adventures of my cartoon character Almost Smart Cookie. And if you want to be part of my research, take my online survey. On my website, click in the Research box at the top on the right. If you’d like free feedback about your survey results, at the end of the survey, provide your name, e-mail and phone number AND add the word WE so that I know you found me through this article. Thank you!
This article is excerpted from the Fall 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women. To read the current issue (PDF) visit: http://www.staging.wemagazineforwomen.com/pdfs/fall2009.pdf or http://www.rsszine.com/samples/Fall2009/ (Turning Page)