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Dealing With Current Events At Work

How to Take Space and Acknowledge Your Whole Self At Work

 

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We live in a time when there is no shortage of bad news being covered on the news and the 8 social media feeds we follow. Pretty consistently for over a year, I have found myself waking up some mornings trying to put on a mental armor of sorts before I go to work. In my mind, this armor is supposed to help me process what I’m thinking and feeling, while keeping me poised enough to do my job.  

There are some moments when it is harder to put on this armor than others. When something major happens in the world around you and 1) there is no real space or invitation to talk about it at work, if it’s mentioned at all, and 2) you have lots of feelings and thoughts impacting your focus, it is important to consider a few things.

It is okay if you are impacted by what is happening.

In the last 2 years, it seems like we have all been exposed to a different brand of news, with greater frequency. Between the video replays of people being gunned down by police, coverage of mass killings, triggering recounts of sexual misconduct, and constant repetition of offensive and sometimes criminal words and acts of famous people in America, we are confronted from multiple sides. Some argue that many of us experience vicarious trauma as a result of these stories.

And then we are expected to walk into work and keep our projects moving forward as though nothing is happening.

If you are impacted by what is happening, you don’t have to pretend it is business as usual. Don’t feel compelled to volunteer your feelings if you are not comfortable – or if it is not safe – to do so. But don’t feel like you have to plaster on the corporate smile, either.

Embrace your Whole Self

You are a whole person who shows up to work each day. Keeping in mind the culture and protocol of your workplace, you should be able to answer the question “How are you,” with “Not doing so well today.” You can then decide what do with the conversation from there. This is not about oversharing or crossing boundaries, but it as about honoring where you are.

Get Some Space If You Need It

After the November 2016 election, it was very clear that a good percentage of Americans were not doing so well when it settled in that the 45th President of the United States is who he is in all his himself sadness and glory. I woke up the morning after the election and thought about calling in sick because I felt so out of it.  Most recently, the continued mass shootings and #MeToo reflections, allegations, and investigations have been weighing on me.

Walking into work with the weight of any major tragedy or news story on your mind is likely to impact your productivity for part of the day, at least. If you need to shut your door, sit in a conference room, take a walk (or several), or do some other activity that gives you some space to be, take that space. If your workplace requires certain approvals or permissions before you can take this kind of space, be sure to get them, but be sure to get the breathing room you need.

Check In With Your Colleagues 

There will times when you are not ready to talk about what you are feeling. Even in those times, it may be helpful just to check in on someone else to see how they are feeling about what’s going on. You don’t have to have all of your thoughts together. The act of reaching out and listening to others’ thoughts and feelings, can help you in three ways:

  1. It will remind you that you are not alone.
  2. Reaching out gives you the opportunity to support someone in a way they helps them process their thoughts.
  3. You now know there is a safe place for you to process your thoughts when you are ready.

It may feel like you should downplay or try to ignore your thoughts and feelings about world events that don’t directly impact your day to day life. I encourage you to remember that life isn’t actually divided up into neat little compartments. It is okay if you have feelings that impact how you are feeling at work. Seek ways to process those feelings in a way that is professional, and acknowledges your humanity. It can, and needs to, be done.

What are some ways you deal with current events at work?

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