Updated: Jul 30
When a major crisis turns your life upside down, how do you keep working like it’s business as usual?
Life is fond of throwing us curveballs. One day, you’re cruising through your career and making big strides toward your goals. It may not be perfect, but you’ve got a good thing going. Then you get the diagnosis. Or the divorce papers. Or the bank notice. Life can change in an instant, and sooner or later, most of us will face a personal crisis so overwhelming it threatens to swallow us whole.
When your foundation feels like it’s crumbling beneath you, it can be hard to put on your game face at the office. Still, when you’ve put a lot of effort into building your career, you shouldn’t let a personal crisis derail your work life. So how do you stay grounded in your professional life when inside it feels like you’re falling apart?
Think carefully about what you share
When you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, supportive people who let you vent your feelings are a blessing. It’s a good thing to unburden yourself and seek support in the arms of people who love you – but tread cautiously with your co-workers.
Talking to your colleagues about your crisis isn’t strictly a no-no, but you should weigh the pros and cons in your mind before you decide how much to share. On the one hand, sharing that you’re going through a tough time can help your co-workers be patient with you and even step in to help you with your workload.
On the other hand, sharing too much or being too open can be perceived as attention seeking or inappropriate. When in doubt about what or how to share, consider what’s normal for your office. A small, intimate team might get more personal than, say, a large corporate office.
Whatever you decide, be sure to share only with people you trust, and don’t disclose anything you think should be kept private. And if your personal situation will affect your work performance or availability, you should contact Human Resources (HR) and your supervisor to help them prepare for any changes in your position.
Take advantage of policies that are in place to help you
Many companies have policies in place designed to assist employees who are dealing with a crisis. These can be in the form of personal days, bereavement leave, or remote work, among other solutions. If you’ve never looked up the details in your employee handbook, you may not be aware that these policies exist to help you.
Talk to your boss or HR department to see if there’s anything the company can do to help you transition through this, and don’t be afraid to brainstorm some creative solutions. If you’re a high-performing employee, many businesses will be willing to figure out a temporary solution that will enable you to have more flexibility while you work through your issues.
You can also take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible employees legal job protection and guarantees continued insurance coverage for a period of up to 12 weeks in applicable situations.
Set healthy boundaries
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries in order to navigate a crisis while working. The truth is that if you aren’t willing or able to take leave from work, then you’ll need to find a way to get your job done – even in the midst of personal upheaval.
The easiest way to do this is to get yourself in the mindset that when you’re at work, you’re working. You’re focused on your job and determined to meet your responsibilities. Resist the distractions of your private life, and focus on the tasks at hand.
Easier said than done, right? During this difficult time, you may have a thousand distractions and friends or family trying to reach out to you during business hours. If you don’t set boundaries around your work time, you can easily be pulled away from what you need to focus on. So set some limits around yourself so that others in your life will know that when you’re at work, you’re out of reach.
Remember to take care of yourself
Possibly the biggest challenge of managing a crisis is taking care of your physical and mental well-being during the process. It’s easy to burn the candle at both ends and wear yourself out. While you may think you need to sacrifice sleep, nutrition, and self-care in order to get through, this can backfire in a big way.
If you let yourself get totally burned out, things will quickly start to fall apart. Brain fog, fatigue, and even depression and over-sensitivity can take over if you’re not taking good care of your body. None of these things are helpful in the workplace, so it’s important to make your overall health a priority.
Get adequate sleep, stay hydrated, and eat nutrient-dense food. Check in with loved ones or journal for emotional support. When you’re at work, be gentle with yourself, and don’t berate yourself if you can’t scratch everything off your to-do list.
You can make it through this
Sooner or later, everyone faces their share of challenges in life. There is absolutely no shame in acknowledging the tough time you’re experiencing and leaning on others to help you make it through. Give yourself a shot of positivity and know that you can – and will – come out on top. Whatever curveball life has thrown your way; you can overcome it.
If you’d like to learn how to become unstoppable like Gigi and find out how to push beyond your limits and fears to really start living with fulfillment, contact her today.