Americans work nearly 47 hours per week on average, leaving approximately 121 hours for us to enjoy the lives we work so hard to experience. Of course, that’s not counting the eight hours of sleep we should be getting each day, the hour or so spent in the bathroom, or the frustrating hours spent doing the I-405 stop-and-go routine. If you’re lucky, you might have about four hours a day to enjoy things like happy hour, designing your dream home, and dating.
But what happens when you’ve attended all the happy hours and started dating, yet those four fun-filled hours (well, maybe even parts of the eight you should be sleeping, too) aren’t so happy? Unfortunately, lots of relationships end — even if you take them to the next level and get married. And when you have only about four hours to deal with your personal life before and after work, you sometimes have to cope with all the nasty, ugly feelings at the office. Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to deal with a breakup and still keep your cool at work:
Ask for extra work
When things started going downhill in my marriage, I sat down with a mentor who recently had ended her engagement. She had just been recruited by one of the area’s fastest-growing startups and found that throwing herself into work — to the point of working way beyond the average 47 hours per week — helped her find new passion, and the job was a distraction from what was happening at home. In the beginning, her heart didn’t hurt any less, but her job helped her realize the relationship wasn’t giving her what she needed. She eventually eased back on work and met someone better suited as a partner.
Talk about other things
When you work in an office, it’s inevitable that you will talk about your personal life with anyone who sits near you, walks by your desk, or whom you pass by en route to the bathroom — basically, your entire company. Coworkers likely know how you met, when the relationship became “official,” and all the dirty details since then. Unfortunately, breakups are uncomfortable — especially if your coworkers also are friends with your ex. It’s better for everyone if you can find something else to talk about to move everyone’s lives and mutal interests forward. Think the Mariners might make it to the playoffs? Just when will the ridiculous tolling end on 405? How about this summer’s concert lineup? Bonus points if you can turn this small chat into big social plans.
Clue in your boss
At the very least, let your boss know what’s going on. When my marriage started going downhill last summer and I was working in an office, I let my VP know immediately. It wasn’t so much because I was on the brink of tears at any moment — which was definitely uncomfortable for everyone — but so I could ask for what I needed as I navigated that time. I was granted an empty office for spontaneous and awkward phone calls with lawyers, and my manager was more flexible with my schedule so I could take time for myself and my emotions. That let me have a good cry in the morning, and then come into work.
You don’t have to pretend you’re totally OK at work. Just like the book says — everybody poops. And everybody loses their cool at work. The more you’re open and honest with people about the fact you might lose it, and the more you distract yourself with work itself, the less likely — and often — you’ll find yourself dwelling over those precious four hours of your personal life during the dozens of hours you’re at work every week.
And if all else fails, make sure your car is stocked with Kleenex. You can always crank up Adele’s latest and sob for hours during your commute on stop-and-go 405.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of “425 Business.”