man looking out window

Leaving your personal problems at the door can be tough to do.

One thing you’ve heard again and again is that you should keep your work life and your personal life separate. You should leave your problems at the door when you come in for you scheduled shift. On paper, that sounds easy. In real life, though, it can be tough to forget about the problems that are waiting for you at home, whether it’s a fight with your significant other or worry about bills you’re not sure you’ll be able to pay this month. But you can get through it. Here’s a few things you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

1. Talk to your boss about it.

You may think you’ve done a good job of keeping your out-of-work stress a secret, but more often than not, those around you have noticed something is off. When you’ve established a good relationship with your manager or team lead over the time you’ve worked for them, having a conversation to explain you’re dealing with something tough after hours can help them help you. Understanding team needs, whether it’s personal or a work issue, can help them rearrange resources for success. Talking to your manager could benefit you, your manager, and your team in the long run.

If your problem has caused your work performance to dip, you’ve missed more days at work than usual, or your attitude is noticeably different, your boss knows something is going on. They’re probably even planning to have a talk with you about it! While the standard advice is to keep a firm separation between your personal and professional life, this is one instance in which actually addressing what’s causing you to stumble at work can make things better.

Be open and honest about what you’re dealing with and explain your circumstances. Maybe you just need to adjust your schedule til things settle down. Your boss can make that happen. For a dedicated, generally hard-working employee, it can benefit the company more to work with you through what’s going on than simply punishing you for less than stellar performance.

2. Know when you need a break.

Sometimes, the issues that are following you from home into your workspace can be overwhelming. You want to be a responsible employee and you love your job but going in every day feels nearly impossible. You can’t focus on the tasks you need to complete at work and when you get home, you’re stressing about your job performance instead of concentrating on what needs to be done there. The whole concept of work/life balance is thrown out the window because it’s honestly not going to happen any time soon, so what do you do?

When you get to a certain point, there’s nothing else you can do besides take a much needed break. This isn’t always possible, depending on how vacation and personal time work at your company. But if you’ve already spoken with your manager about what’s going on, having an honest discussion about taking even a day or two off can help you take the first step toward refocusing on work and life.

3. Take it day by day.

Whether you’re dealing with a short or long-term problem, taking it day by day can help you process things as they come. All anyone can do — including you — is try. Some days, you’ll be perfectly fine leaving your home stress right at the door of your workplace. Some days, work problems will bleed into your home life. Address each issue as it comes up and go from there.

Sometimes when things start to go wrong, it can be easy to jump to the conclusion that everything is going wrong. When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Make a list of things that are going well. Try even jotting down the best part of your day every day. Focus on the elements that matter in the long run and let go of things you can’t control. That can help a big issue become a smaller issue or help you to focus on what truly matters.

It can, however, sometimes feel selfish to take time for yourself when you’re going through something. But, by taking care of yourself first, you can make sure you have the energy to take care of everything — and everyone else — second! If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t think you have the time to spend on self-care, try a few fast self-care tricks to get started like

  • Shutting off your phone, tablet, or computer for ten minutes. Even a few minutes away from the constant stress of messages and emails can help you feel a bit better.

  • Take a five minute walk. When things at work or home are piling up, leave it behind for a few minutes. It’s not running away, it’s taking a second to find balance. Walk around your office building or take a walk around the block to clear your head and come back refreshed.

  • Read a chapter in a favorite book or watch a short video that makes you happy. Ten to fifteen minutes of doing something that you enjoy can make it easier to tackle all the stress and responsibilities you have waiting for you.

While you’re taking a step back to take a deep breath and refresh, remember that no one expects you to be perfect or figure out every problem today. Not everything will be solved right away, and that’s okay!

You can and will get through it.

As an employee, a friend, a student, you’re working hard every day to do your best. There are people in your life who believe in you, from your coworkers who’ve spent forty or more hours with you every week to your boss who knows all the amazing things you can achieve. When you’re going through something, you might think that everyone is waiting for you to fail or that there’s no way for you to come out of this ahead. Remember, no one is perfect, but you can learn from the tough and imperfect days you go through. Balancing everything on your plate will never be easy, but you can do this.