When Heartbreak Hinders Output: Managing Work After a Breakup


You've got your soy latte in hand, are wearing an outfit that makes you feel like you're in it for the win today, and the weather couldn't be any more perfect. You walk into the office and pass by the usual suspects, happily greeting them as you wind around the building toward your desk. You set your coffee down, position yourself in your chair, and gently lift open your laptop.

In this moment, the last thing on your mind is your recent breakup, until, well, it's the first thing on your mind. It's now been days, weeks — maybe even months — since you two called it quits, but it seems like no matter how much time passes, your heart won't mend. You even feel sick to your stomach at times. The tears, the melancholy — the temptation to dive into social media or scroll through your photo reel of old pics — has repeatedly disrupted your workflow, only adding to the guilt you already feel.

You're not alone. Heartbreak is part of the human condition. The question is: how do you manage it when you're trying so desperately to focus during the work day?

Advice for Navigating Heartbreak on the Job

“When it comes to healing heartbreak — and losses of every kind — there are so many variables, both within ourselves and in the environments we find ourselves in, that it's just not practical to apply a 'one size fits all' approach," said Christy Whitman, a relationship expert and two-time New York Times bestselling author.

With that basis of understanding, take the following advice and apply it thoughtfully, and where appropriate, to your own experience to help alleviate the often-debilitating emotions that accompany grief.

Let Yourself Grieve Outside of Work

One of the most important things you can do when dealing with heartache is to give yourself time and space to grieve the relationship, said Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a board-certified psychiatrist at Doctor On Demand. Set aside some time — outside of business hours — to really let yourself feel and process.

“What you do during that time can vary, but expecting to carry on as usual is a set up for feeling worse. Some people need to be surrounded by supportive friends and family after a break up, others manage by focusing on self-care and doing things they really enjoy," she said. “When you find yourself feeling particularly down, think about a positive memory of the relationship or something you learned about yourself to reframe negative thoughts into something that can help you move forward."

By fully experiencing these feelings, you'll be better equipped to release them. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel angry, safely express those feelings by writing down your thoughts or venting to a friend. “The only way to get over a broken heart is to move through it. While uncomfortable in the short term, actually feeling your feelings makes the healing process much faster than closing down or numbing out," said Whitman. “Avoiding our emotions creates blocks in our own energy field, which not only makes healing take longer, but can also prevent us from finding new love, or being open to receive the abundance and prosperity we desire."

Consider Taking a Few Personal Days

If you're someone who can compartmentalize or easily distract yourself through the work day, setting aside evenings or weekends to grieve and process may work for you. Some people find this difficult, though, and that's OK. In some cases, taking a few personal days for yourself is an ideal option.

“Consider what you know about yourself when deciding whether you need a break from work," said Dr. Benders-Hadi. “Are you a person who does better when distracted by work for a period of time? Or will needing to 'put on a brave face' at work only make you feel worse? For many people, taking a mental health day for yourself before getting back to your regular work schedule is all the time you need."

If you do take this time off, make sure those hours are productive and have purpose. You can absolutely “treat yourself" to a spa day or shopping spree, but do your best to process feelings, work through your emotions, meditate, and focus on yourself.

Throw Yourself into Your Career

As you begin working through the emotions of a gut-wrenching breakup, channel that newfound energy into your career. “Focusing on work can be incredibly healing and productive when it provides an outlet for the flow of creative energy," noted Whitman.

Busying yourself at work, especially once you've begun healing, can be both healthy and rewarding. Ask for more responsibility, really throw yourself into that upcoming project, go above and beyond what's expected of you, write down and track career-related goals, tackle that side project you've been putting off, organize your office or your inbox, and set aside time to network outside of office hours.

And if those feelings crop up? Carve out some time and allow yourself to feel them.

“Give yourself five to 10 minutes at the start or end of the day to process emotions and then let them go," said Dr. Benders-Hadi. “There's nothing wrong with feeling sad, hurt, or angry when dealing with heartache, but you do want to make sure these emotions don't start to interfere with things you have to do or cause other problems in your life."

Create a Game Plan for Intrusive Thoughts

Rather than expecting those intrusive thoughts not to occur, have a plan in place for when they do creep in.

“Write down an inspirational quote that means something to you, or think of a happy memory that makes you smile," advice Dr. Benders-Hadi. “You can also give yourself an arbitrary work deadline or time limit to help you stay on task. Remind yourself that you have already set aside time to feel those emotions and stick with that plan."

Whitman added, “It can be helpful to keep a journal nearby to express the things that are coming to the surface to be resolved and healed. It's not necessary to give them all of your attention — simply acknowledge painful thoughts and feelings as evidence that you are in the process of recovering your balance. Honor them for what they are and allow their energy to move through you, and they will naturally release."

Bottom Line

The feelings you're experiencing are some of the most complicated and gut-wrenching a human can experience, and you're not alone in your struggle to navigate through them without disrupting your personal and work life. Ultimately, do your best to intuitively pinpoint and address your emotional needs. Create and stick to boundaries for when you've given yourself permission to grieve your relationship, channel your energy into your career and personal goals, surround yourself with loved ones who get it, and do your best to remain active versus stationary in your progress.

7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.