Staying Focused at Work When You’re Mid-Break-up

Can’t take a week-long sickie for a broken heart?
Here’s how to survive



If you are caught in a vacuum of grief right now, here are five practical ways to keep things spinning at work (and as always, if it all gets too much, seek out professional help).



When leaving the comfy cocoon of home (and your pyjamas) takes maximum effort, experts recommend treating your work the same way you do the rest of your life post-breakup: by tackling one small thing at a time. With a mind so intent on wandering to your emotional wants and needs, staying focused on a task for a long period of time becomes extremely challenging. This is why breaking your day into smaller, more achievable tasks is the key to overcoming the enormity of it all. In those smaller portions, say hour by hour, you’re far more likely to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel without feeling overwhelmed by a mountain of to-do’s.


2) GO ON A DIET (No, not that kind of diet!)

This diet is of an emotional kind and it’s a healthy way of allowing yourself the space to grieve the loss of your relationship, without giving the sadness so much space it takes over. Sheri Meyers, marriage therapist and author of Chatting or Cheating, recommends allocating five minutes an hour to allow yourself to obsess, think, write, wallow or talk about the break-up. Here’s the catch though: once the five minutes are up (and you will be timing), that’s it. After that, you have to wait until the next hour to repeat the process. As time progresses, Sheri suggests you reduce the time: try four minutes the next day and three minutes the next, and so on.

“It’s giving yourself permission,” explains Meyers. “If you’re trying to break the habit of thinking about your partner, giving yourself five minutes a day helps you realise that you can control your thinking. It’s a way to channel the urge and also feel the sense of control.”



Your mind and heart are clearly suffering – this is where focus on your body begins. You may feel as though a fourth piece of that birthday cake circling the office is a good idea (and you’re not entirely wrong), but it’s important not to overdo it. The long-term effects of neglecting your body will only add to the stress that you’re already under. Foods that are high in salt and sugar for example, increase the levels of stress hormone cortisol, a rise of which can also see a significant decrease in the normal functioning ability of your immune system. And the last thing you need is to get sick.

Further to that, getting out and exercising regularly is the ultimate weapon against the physiological effects of your sorry state – taking a walk at lunchtime or doing a yoga class will increase your general feeling of wellbeing, plus your cognitive function, which is pretty fundamental to getting through your workday. You’ll also naturally notice a decrease in stress levels. The mere fact that you’re up, at work and getting moving when you can is a significant subversion of the typical response to an emotionally taxing time.

“After a break-up, we tend to want to sit and cuddle and huddle and cry, and talk to our friends and feel bad,” Meyers says. “So getting out and moving is really essential because it’s almost the opposite of what we feel like doing, which is shutting down and feeling sorry for ourselves.”

It could be as simple as five-minute desk yoga: anything that will get you feeling better physically is bound to make you happier, even if it’s for a limited amount of time.



In the infinite darkness of space that follows a break-up, most will feel compelled to fill the absence rather than allow it. That usually translates into an overwhelming need to contact your partner, or becoming fixated on hearing from them. So, help yourself and your distraction levels and turn off your phone. You’ll never get anything done if you’re constantly checking it or thinking you’ve missed a call, and this step will help you separate that life from the one you’re living in your office, and therefore regain all-important focus.



While crying at work isn’t always a complete no-no, it’s important that you don’t let your emotions completely topple you. If you need five minutes – take five minutes. Head to the bathroom, shut the door, breathe deep and take the time. But don’t just use the time to allow your emotions to take over: try channelling the alone time into a mechanism for regaining control.

Studies confirm that meditation has an adverse effect on the ‘me’ part of the brain, or the DMN (default mode network) – the exact part that allows your mind to wander. And in the midst of a tough time, chances are it will wander into destructive territory. So, doing a simple meditation is a good way to harness your thoughts and emotions and quiet your mind – instead of focusing on your situation, focusing on the simple act of breathing can help silence those negative thoughts so you can get back to your desk and on with your work.


For more advice on how to heal in the wake of a break-up, check out Lisa Messenger’s latest book Break-ups and Breakthroughs



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