When Personal Impacts Professional
It happens to all of us: the pressing personal problem or concern that takes center stage, leaving little energy or attention for anything else, including work. Examples are a family member's prolonged illness or death, facing the prospect or reality of divorce. Although most of us are practiced at putting on the "game face" and getting on with work, events of this magnitude may make it difficult or impossible to manage that. Each person is, of course, different, and no solution will fit everyone. Here, however, are some useful coping mechanisms.
Support. Get the support you need, whether that's counseling, a support group, a coach, or some blend of the three. Asking for help may not come naturally, but it can help you avoid mental or emotional tunnel vision and help you identify your best options.
Consider whether to share your news. Depending on the situation, you may need to let a colleague or supervisor know what's going on. There's no need to share details, but especially if you suspect that there will be an actual conflict between your professional responsibilities and your personal ones, it's often best to let someone else know.
Practice centering exercises. Whether it's meditation, yoga, or just deep breathing, physical activities can help you center yourself so you are better prepared to deal with work while you're working and less likely to be pulled away mentally or emotionally by whatever is causing you distress. This can be as simple as sitting in silence for 3-4 minutes and paying attention to your breath, gently releasing any thoughts that may come up. The beauty of a practice this simple, of course, is that you can revisit it at any moment, without even letting others know you're doing it.
Excellent self-care. Get enough sleep. Eat real, healthy food. Don't drink too much alcohol. Keep your body well-hydrated. When you're under severe stress, it's easy to let his go, but the extra effort will serve you well.
Be realistic. You may need to cut back on your hours, take a "vacation," or even take a leave of absence. Or you may not. But don't try to be a hero. A realistic appraisal of your energy will keep you from taking on too much, causing yourself to crash and burn.
Reflect. Journal writing can be a terrific tool for working through difficult issues.
Manage your energy. Take advantage of the days when you have sufficient energy to work hard.
Although you can take steps to keep your energy as high as possible (the other steps suggested here, for instance), it's a reasonably safe bet that your energy will lag at some point, and you'll be able to work with that rhythm if you maximize your output when you can.
Remember that this, too, will pass. It's a trite saying that may not offer much comfort in the moments of deepest pain, but the difficult times will not last forever.