We all have them.  Those periods when we cannot seem to switch off our emotions, whether due to personal circumstances, the loss of a loved one, or difficult memories that are triggered by events in the news.  We all experience those times when our feelings insist on reaching out and begging for our attention like a needy child, no matter how much work we have to do or how badly we need to concentrate.  I experienced one of ‘those weeks’ recently.  These are some of the steps that I took to get my head back in the game.

  1. Stick with the routine. If you have not yet read Girish Rishi’s series on the importance of having a system, How Good is Your System? and How Good is Your System? Part II, I recommend doing so as it include some great advice.  For me, I find that a little bit of outdoor time and exercise first thing in the morning helps me to focus and clear my head.  Although what I really wanted to do when I woke up every day was to put my head under the covers and forget the world around me, I dragged myself out of bed and strapped on my sneakers.  Fifteen minutes later I would forget, at least temporarily, why I wanted to stay in bed.   Plus, the endorphins from exercise and the peace from being in nature really do improve your mood!
  2. Take intentional breaks. Sometimes, an intentional break from work will make you more productive when you get back to your desk.  For some, that might be a friendly game of Ping Pong or Ms. Pac Man in the awesome game room at the office.  I sorely lack the hand-eye coordination for those games, but lunch with a friend and a quick shopping excursion through Scottsdale Quarter during another lunch hour did wonders to take my mind off what was bothering me, and I returned to the office refreshed and ready for a productive afternoon.
  3. Put away the triggers. If you are grieving a lost loved one, it is OK to set the sympathy cards aside for a while and read them when you are ready to process the emotions that they can invoke.  If there is a particular object or photo that seems to set you off, maybe you need to pack it away until you are in a different place emotionally.   Is someone else’s drama on social media stirring up your own drama?  Try logging out of your accounts for a couple of days.  If current events are your trigger, put yourself on a news “time out.”  The good news is with today’s short news cycles, it will not take long at all for the media to move on to a different story.
  4. Do something productive, even if it is not work. Maybe you are finding it hard to focus on that report that is due tomorrow, but you can still be productive.   When I found my attention drifting away from my work, I took the opportunity to clean out my desk – after all, how many plastic flatware sets with the fork missing does one person really need?  I also took a few minutes each day to organize the files on my computer and clean up old emails.  As a bonus, the cleaner physical and electronic environments made me feel much more productive when I did turn my attention back to work.
  5. Do something that you enjoy. When the temptation hit one evening to grab a pint of ice cream and head to the couch for a pity party, I decided to cook dinner for my husband instead.   I found a new recipe that I had never tried, and set about shopping, slicing, dicing, and measuring.  The concentration that was required to follow a new recipe seemed to re-set my thinking muscles and restored my mental energy to the point where I was able to complete an overdue project later that evening.

What do you do when you have one of “those weeks” when anger, grief, or other negative emotions take your head out of the game, no matter how hard you try to ignore them?  I will be curious to read your comments.