There’s overwhelming pressure to look happy at work when you’re dealing with sadness. The “mask” you wear can be unbearable.  What happens when you just filed for divorce?  When your children are in trouble? When you’re in trouble?  There is a way to accept your sadness and not let it control you.  The last thing you want is to appear weak or vulnerable in the office.  Here are some ways to help you deal with sadness and stay focused.

1. Be sad.

Don’t force happy. As long as you get the work done on time, no one is going to notice. Aside from crying openly in the office, manage your sadness in other ways:  write yourself an email listing all your sad thoughts, bring a knitted-stress ball to work.  You can stick needles in it during lunch as you imagine the person or thing doing you wrong.  It’s important not to hold this heavy, negative energy in your body.  You may let it out on the wrong person in the next cubicle.

2. Put together a self-care kit & don’t forget it at home.

Your bag is going to be heavy during this time, but for good reason.  Bring a few of your favorite magazines, lavender oil for relaxation, scented hand cream, aspirin, and a few bags of your favorite hot beverage, like coffee, tea or cocoa.  When everything else fails, grab one of these before a meltdown.

3. Eat well.

Cooking is one of the hardest things to do when sad, so keep it simple, but delicious.  Favorite kid foods can bring back memories of comfortable, safe moments growing up.  Fix a couple of almond butter and strawberry jam sandwiches or a simple grilled cheese with tomato soup.  These pack enough basic nutrition to keep you alive, give you some energy to make eye contact, and help you last until the next break.

4. Listen to audio books.

It’s one of the best ways to keep people off your back.  Pop in a motivational book or the latest novel and drift away.  If you find your mind wandering, turn it off, but keep the plugs in your ears. Passersby will think you’re still listening and will not want to disturb you.

5. Do productive spurts of 45 minutes.

You have little energy for work, when all your energy is working out what’s happening in your life. Break your days up into 45-minute blocks of steady productivity.  After each block, smoke a cigarette, take a walk, or disappear for a few minutes to clear your head.  If you have to stay near the phone, consider letting some calls go to voicemail in between blocks to give you time to clear your head, and start again.

6. Keep pesky co-workers at bay.

Establish healthy boundaries with talkative types who demand time and energy to act like you’re really interested in what they’re saying. You can use email and skip the face-to-face “check-ins.”

7. Eat at your desk.

Instead of joining the crew for lunch, stay behind.  You can eat in your office or desk and sit with your sadness. Be open to any solutions that arise.  Again, don’t suppress how you feel.  Oftentimes, in the routine of a workday, you may get the answers you need.

8. Get some sun and fresh air.

Leave the office.  If eating lunch at your desk doesn’t work, step outside for some fresh air, and natural vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a natural mood booster, and all it takes is 10 minutes.  The fresh air will soothe your nerves and give you a sense of well-being.

9. Spend time in the bathroom.

Can’t sit at your desk for lunch or leave the office without someone making a big stink?  Go to the bathroom for a little rest and relaxation.  Not exactly the most serene place, but a notable venue for contemplation.  Stand or sit and do some deep breathing (bring that lavender oil, just in case) and feel your sadness.  Let it out. There’s plenty of tissue on deck.

10. Ask for help.

If you feel overwhelmed, ask a trusted colleague to help.  Perhaps, you can offer to take a shift or finish one of their projects as an exchange.  Keep the work you’re handing over small, and manageable, and use your free-time to focus on less, demanding tasks.

Sometimes the best way to deal with sadness that lasts more than a few days is to take some time off.  They don’t call them “personal days” for nothing.

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