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How to keep personal issues out of the office

This article is more than 12 months old

Try focusing on tasks and consider talking to a professional

There are times when personal problems outside of work can get to us, at the detriment of your work performance and relationships with colleagues. It could be family issues, problems with your partner or friends - anything non-work related that is bringing you down.

We asked Ms Geraldine Tan, principal-registered psychologist and director of The Therapy Room, what you can do to keep focused at work and tune out your negative thoughts.

How can you recognise that your work is deteriorating due to personal problems (for example, you have been snapping at co-workers)?

The best way is to get feedback from around you. For example:

  • People are backing away from you.
  • No more lunch buddies.
  • You are feeling tired.
  • Not wanting to go out or do things that you normally like.
  • A feeling of dread.
  • Feeling that things are going wrong.
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Using alcohol to numb yourself
  • Insomnia

How can you keep focused at work even if you are having personal problems?

That is a tough one as segregating your thoughts may be hard.

What might help is to move into "action mode" where you focus on tasks that need to be completed and the deadline. This will help make your tasks more manageable. So if you have emotional issues:

  • Look at the what needs to be done.
  • Break down the tasks. Take a call, answer an e-mail and then cut the vegetables.
  • Allow yourself to "go slow" for a while.

Are there any steps one can take to improve their situation or mental well-being in the long run?

  • Identify the problem and then look for ways around the issue. Do not sit on the issue. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it is to sort it out, and it will become a festering wound.

  • Look at the issue objectively. Sometimes problems are not as big as they seem. When we are anxious, the brain tends to "fantasise" about the problem.
  • Utilise resources around you. Talk to your friends and family. Many people are afraid of "burdening" the people around them.

But think about it, if you talk to them in the initial phase and clear whatever worries you may have, this means less anxiety and less of a fear of "burdening" them in the future.

If not, talk to a professional. They are neutral and you may be less likely to feel like a burden.

How can someone separate their personal problems from any work-related problems?

It is certainly not easy and we can try the previous steps and to be as objective as possible.

How to keep personal issues out of the office

Emotions tend to be messy and spill over. However, approaching it in a more structured and task-focused fashion helps one to deal with the here and now.

Having said that, the issues need to be managed and dealt with soon so as not to allow the issues to continue and to move on more efficiently.

This article first appeared in Visit to live, play, love and work better and smarter