Now that I’m a person who spends 40+ hours per week in a tiny, gray cube, I’ve been finding that it’s nearly impossible to keep my personal life and feelings out of the workplace. I’m a pretty dramatic person. I tend to have a few mental breakdowns per day, varying in size and severity. In the real world, you can deal with things like mental breakdowns, hangovers, break-ups, and PMS on your own time. In the working world, you somehow have to balance your angst and rage with the fact that everyone in the entire building can see and hear what you’re doing at all times.
Here are some ways I’ve tried to work through my freak-outs and rage at work, while also not alerting my co-workers to the fact that I’m on the verge of insanity:
- Take a quickie walk around the block. The one thing I’m learning about office life is that if you’re gone for less than 15 minutes, people generally don’t ask where you’ve been.
- Of course, sometimes you don’t have that option, in which case, go to the bathroom and sit silently in a stall for a few minutes until you calm down.
- Put on your headphones and tune everyone out.
- Drink tons and tons of water. Water is soothing, plus it leads to frequent trips to the bathroom where you can be alone, if only for a minute or two.
- Write yourself an e-mail ranting and raving about your current episode. Then, you can look like you’re doing actual work AND release some frustration.
- If you are lucky enough to have an office with a door, shut it and lie down on the floor. I used to do this all the time when I had an office. Take some time on the floor to breathe deeply and center yourself.
- Even if you don’t have an office with walls, you can do a little deep breathing and stretching at your desk that won’t make you look too crazy.
- Gchat up a storm! Tell all of your gfriends about your latest devastation in excruciating detail, and do all of your freaking out in the form of frantic typing. People will think you’re just really passionate about writing e-mails.
- Throw yourself into your work. I kind of hate that piece of advice because I never feel like doing this when I’m upset, but I think it’s a good approach.
- Repress your feelings until lunchtime and then take a long lunch break. (Taking a legitimate lunch break is one of the best ways to avoid mental breakdowns at work in the first place.)
- Think about how awesome you are. Have an e-mail folder or page in a notebook full of your accomplishments to review when you’re feeling down. I have a folder in my Outlook inbox that’s full of all of the nice e-mails people have sent me about my work. I like to look at it when I’m on the verge of insanity.
- Do any of these things.
- Get some perspective. None of this really matters! I promise. Try to think about how important today’s freakout will be in a few months or a few years. Realize that you’re golden.
What do you guys do to manage mental breakdowns at the office?