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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Navigating a Personal Crisis at Work

Normally, I am that reliable co-worker you can always count on—the one who never calls in sick. But that all changed a year ago, with a first trimester miscarriage, the loss of my aunt who I was extremely close to, and another miscarriage where I had to have surgery.

This rollercoaster of unfortunate events could have knocked me down, made me not want to get out of bed, and affected my performance at work. But instead, I chose to stay positive and do everything I could to keep going, especially at the office.

I hope that you will never have to deal with a personal crisis, but if you do, here are three things that helped me move from my bed to my desk—and get the best assessment ratings that I’ve ever received at work.

1. Don’t Worry About Work When You’re Picking Up the Pieces

After my first miscarriage, I headed right back to work and didn’t give myself enough time to grieve and heal. I consumed myself with my job, and I used it as a way to not deal with what had happened.

But this was the wrong approach. A few months later, the grief hit me even harder because I had never dealt with my emotions in the first place. Work became extremely tough, and it seemed like little issues that I could normally handle were making me overly emotional. I was fragile, but no one around me knew what was really going on.

After my second miscarriage, I knew I needed more time off to take care of myself. So I took a week off and worked from home for another week. This allowed me to handle my emotions earlier, instead of using work as a crutch to avoid the feelings that I needed to go through (and then eventually falling apart later). My entry back to work after my second miscarriage was a whole lot easier because I took more time off for myself.

2. Be Honest With Your Co-Workers

Initially, I didn’t want to tell anyone I worked with what I was going through. I thought about just saying I was sick for a week. But I knew that was so unlike me that it needed a better explanation.

I realized that, when I opened up and let everyone know what I was going through, they were able to understand better. They were happy to pick up my workload right away, and they didn’t expect me to be doing anything. Because they were so supportive, I could really focus on myself. On the other hand, if I had just said I was sick, I would have been worried about work my entire time off.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to your manager about what you are going through, ask your friends or family to help you. After my first miscarriage, my husband called my manager and let her know what was going on. My boss then contacted my co-workers and clients so no one expected me to be answering emails or phone calls. Even if you have a ton of work piling up (like I did), you’ll likely find that your manager and co-workers will be more than willing to pick up the pieces.

3. Don’t Miss Out on Your Benefits

I worked for the same company for six years and never understood my benefits. I realized later than I would have liked to know that my company offered some amazing benefits, including free confidential counseling and research programs.

Look in to the programs that are available to you, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of them. Even though counseling isn’t talked about much, it’s not something to be afraid of, and it doesn’t mean you are weak (or crazy). Counseling was a huge part of helping me get back to normal so that I could complete my work assignments and better manage my work relationships during the difficult times.

My company benefits also covered medical research programs—I could have someone complete a research report about a medical condition I had and email it to me. This information was so helpful, and it would have taken me weeks to do by myself.

It’s tough to make that first step and to ask someone else for help, but I promise, you’ll be so glad you did. If I hadn’t made that choice to put myself first, I wouldn’t have been able to perform well at work and continue to do the things that I love to do everyday (like helping young professionals find jobs on my blog).

Above all, remember that you are not alone in your struggles and that there are ways to deal with your personal issues and still perform fabulously at work. As hard as things may seem, don’t give up, and don’t deal with your crisis alone.

Photo of stressed man courtesy of Shutterstock.