Keeping Personal Problems 'Off the Job'
Your personal life may be in turmoil because of your strong emotional attachments to unpredictable or difficult people. But, allowing your personal problems to affect your productivity at work will add to your stress.
There are steps that you can take at work, at home and with yourself, to help keep personal problems under control.
"One of the best ways to avoid taking your personal problems to work is to be involved in some community work or support group that allows you to vent and to problem-solve, so you're not taking your negative mind-set into work," says Loretta LaRoche, author of several advice books, including Life Is Not a Stress Rehearsal . "Community service also lets you see other people who are more disadvantaged and makes you feel better about your own situation."
Being with other people who have similar problems in a support group provides an opportunity to share experiences and ideas, and keeps you from feeling isolated.
You have many non-religious support groups to choose from, including Tough Love for families with difficult children, Al-Anon for the family members or friends of alcoholics and Parents Without Partners for single moms and dads. A multitude of religion-affiliated groups also are available. Check with your local chamber of commerce for a list of organizations and volunteer opportunities.
Be an optimist
Look at what's good about your personal life, or as Ms. LaRoche says, "Look for the bless in the mess! Optimists know there's a problem and try to solve it. Optimists say, 'Things happen, now what?'"
Change what you can
Determine which changes you can make in your personal life. Where can you add more predictability and structure? With whom do you need to set limits? Can you either divide up the household chores or hire someone to help with the cleaning, laundry and cooking? How can you be more pleasant at home, even when others are grumpy?
Keep it light
Most people take something bad that happened and make it seem even worse by exaggerating reality.
"Turn that into something humorous by taking that exaggeration one step forward and making it completely absurd," says Ms. LaRoche. "You'll soon laugh at your ridiculous thoughts."
Do three things for yourself every day
Schedule time for yourself. Make sure you're eating properly, exercising, getting enough sleep and relaxing some every day. Each week, do at least one activity you enjoy. At work, use part of your lunch hour to go for a walk or read an inspirational book.
Become an actor
Pretend you're an actor or actress playing a role. When you get dressed for work, wear your work costume, and don't wear these same clothes in your personal life. When you arrive at work, pretend you're on stage. As an actor, no matter what's going on in your personal life, audience members have paid for their tickets and the show must go on.
Make friends at work
Invite a different co-worker to lunch every day. These one-on-one lunches will help you get to know your peers on a more personal level. Choose happy people with a positive attitude, because they'll give you energy.
Get support from your supervisor
Make your supervisor aware of any major problems you're facing in your personal life. He or she may have more compassion and offer possible solutions. Ask if your company or health insurance covers outside counseling.
"By using these strategies, you'll be better-equipped to focus at work in spite of personal problems, and you may soon discover your work has become a safe haven from the chaos you experience at home," says Ms. LaRoche.