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Divorce and Work: Keeping Your Job During Your Divorce

With so much of your life upended during divorce, your job is that last thing you want to risk. You are moving your residence, your social circle is changing, your finances are challenging, and your parenting is affected. On top of that, a myriad of practical issues need attention [car insurance, estate planning, health insurance, taxes, mortgages/rent, etc.]

Perhaps the most difficult adjustment is in managing the emotional roller coaster: sadness, bouts of crying, anxiety, sometimes panic, poor concentration, lack of focus, compromised memory and hopelessness are all common responses. But many also react with debilitating anger or paralyzing apathy to the loss of their marriage and the trauma it inflicts.

Don’t Let Your Divorce Jeopardize Your Work Life… Easier Said Than Done

Keeping your job secure is an important factor in holding onto some sense of security control and familiarity. But trying to keep your professional life on track is difficult and can be overwhelming when dealing with the rest of your life. You need to come up with a plan so your work performance experiences minimal impact. This is your future you are dealing with.

To keep your professional life on track, even when you think you can’t possibly dredge up the energy, try the four suggestions below:

Stay Organized

Keeping everything in your head is not an option at this point. Keep two lists: one for work items and one for personal items. If you are technology-oriented, use your cell or computer to keep itemized to-do lists as well as your calendar. Some of us prefer good ole’ pen and paper. Reevaluate and re-prioritize your list daily. This will help you to stay focused and to remember things that might fall through the cracks and takes only two minutes a day. An added benefit is that once it’s on paper you have a better chance of being able to focus on work issues.

Establish a Support System

Consider having a private conversation to tell your boss that you are divorcing. You don’t have to share any details. Revealing your circumstances will likely elicit compassion since most people have experienced challenging events in the course of their lifetime. Most employers are understanding about distressing life events.

Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that typically entitle you to between one and eight free, confidential counseling sessions. If your employer does not and you think you would benefit from therapy, seek it on your own. If you have a trustworthy co-worker who knows your situation, you can get support at work when things are particularly tough.

One caveat. Limit the type information you share with co-workers; no one needs to know the gory details of your personal relationships. Beware of oversharing and dragging your co-workers into the drama and using up their work time.

Outside of work, have a circle of family and friends who care about you and consider participation in a divorce support group — google Divorce Care as an example.

Self-Care

Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and finding time to relax is vitally important. Schedule it if you have to. Sitting on the couch and staring at the TV while munching is not a good long-term approach.

Try meditation exercises available on YouTube or check out some phone apps —(try CALM). They offer great tools for slowing down your heart rate, easing your mind and counteracting the fight or flight response to the crisis of divorce. Maintain good boundaries for yourself by limiting texts, calls and emails from your soon-to-be ex during work hours.

Manage Stress

If you experience anxiety or depression [scattered thought, preoccupation, emotional reactivity, constant worry, lack of motivation, difficulty with focus, concentration or memory], seek professional counseling or get a medical evaluation. This step can get you the support and guidance you need if you are not thinking clearly.

You may want to consider questions like whether you should be working more or less. Or whether you should explore disability benefits if you are truly unable to function at work. If your emotions are interfering with your ability to complete your work assignments or maintain your composure at work, think about a medical evaluation for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. They work wonders during a crisis.

By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, LCSW

©2017 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation

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