How to Cope With a Personal Crisis at Work
I used to be that extremely reliable co-worker that you could always count on no matter what. The one who never called in sick and could be counted on day, night or weekend. Looking back, that perfectionist mindset caused a lot of stress for me. I hit rock bottom when I had one first trimester miscarriage, the loss of my aunt who I was extremely close to, and another miscarriage where I had to have surgery. I didn’t know how to cope.
This rollercoaster of unfortunate events could have knocked me down, made me not want to get out of bed, and affected my performance at work. But instead, I chose to stay positive and do everything I could to keep going, especially at the office.
I really do hope and pray that you will never have to deal with a personal tragedy, especially all back to back. But if you do, you can learn how to cope and get through everyday life while you are struggling personally. You can’t stay in bed all day like you may want to….I get it.
Here are three ways I learned how to cope with tragedy. They helped me move from my bed to my desk—and actually end up getting the best performance assessment ratings that I’ve ever received at work.
1. Be Honest
It’s really important to be honest with your co-workers. Initially, I didn’t want to tell anyone I worked with what I was going through personally. I thought about just saying I was sick for a week but I knew that was so unlike me that it needed a better explanation.
When I opened up and let everyone know what I was going through, they were able to better understand what I was going through and give me some space to grieve. They were happy to pick up my workload right away, and they didn’t expect me to be doing anything. Because they were so supportive, I could really focus on myself and healing. On the other hand, if I had just said I was sick, I would have been worried about work my entire time off and felt a ton of guilt.
If you don’t feel like you can talk to your manager about what you are going through, ask your friends or family to help you. After my first miscarriage, my husband called my manager and let her know what was going on. My boss then contacted my co-workers and clients so no one expected me to be answering emails or phone calls. Even if you have a ton of work piling up (like I did), you’ll likely find that your manager and co-workers will be more than willing to pick up the pieces for you.
2. Investigate and Ask For Help
The best thing I ever did during that rough patch was investigate my benefits offered at my company. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on your benefits. I realized that my company offered some pretty amazing benefits for me at that time, including free confidential counseling and research programs.
Look into the programs that are available to you, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of them. Even though counseling isn’t talked about much, it’s not something to be afraid of, and it doesn’t mean you are weak (or crazy). Counseling was a huge part of helping me get back to normal so that I could complete my work assignments and better manage my work relationships during the difficult times. It also was a pivotal factor of me moving forward, getting pregnant again and decreasing the stress in my life by working with my boss to get a part-time work arrangement. Talking through my desires with a (free) counselor was a huge help!
My company benefits also covered medical research programs—I could have someone complete a research report about a medical condition I had and email it to me. This information was so helpful, and it would have taken me weeks to do by myself.
It’s tough to take that first step and to ask someone else for help, but I promise, you’ll be so glad you did. If I hadn’t made that choice to put myself first, I wouldn’t have been able to perform well at work and continue to do the things that I love to do everyday (like helping women launch their dream businesses on my webinars).
3. Forget About Work
I know it seems hard, but this is so important. Don’t worry about work when you are picking up the pieces. After my first miscarriage, I headed right back to work and didn’t give myself enough time to grieve and heal. I consumed myself with my job, and I used it as a way to not deal with what had happened.
But this was the wrong approach. A few months later, the grief hit me even harder because I had never dealt with my emotions in the first place. Work became extremely tough, and it seemed like little issues that I could normally handle were making me overly emotional. I was fragile, but no one around me knew what was really going on.
After my second miscarriage, I knew I needed more time off to take care of myself. So I took a week off and worked from home for another week. This allowed me to handle my emotions earlier, instead of using work as a crutch to avoid the feelings that I needed to go through (and then eventually falling apart later). My entry back to work after my second miscarriage was a whole lot easier because I took more time off for myself.
Above all, remember that you are not alone in your struggles and that you can learn how to cope with your personal issues and still perform fabulously at work. As hard as things may seem, don’t give up, and don’t deal with your crisis alone.