How To Keep Advancing Your Career When Dealing With Personal Problems

If you go through life and never have to deal with adversity, count yourself extremely lucky. Most of us, however, will face personal problems such as depression, alcoholism, substance or drug addiction, or any other of a multitude of potential issues and stumbling blocks. Having to deal with a personal problem should not mean the end of your career. It does, of course, make it much more difficult to build and maintain momentum at work, but it doesn’t have to bring things to a screeching halt.

You canadvance your career and bring your personal life back into balance. It is possible. 

Keep Positive

This one sounds a bit “new agey”, but a positive attitude can help in many ways. Keep things in perspective, no matter how hard things may get. The mere fact that you’ve identified a problem that needs fixing, and are actively moving that way, is reason to feel good. Very good. You will struggle. You will have bad days. But why make it even worse by focusing on the negative all the time? This is the very model of “easier said than done”, but it is crucial to your success. Celebrate your efforts towards getting better. Rejoice in the tiny victories.

Be Careful With Whom You Share Your Struggles

Many people assume that telling everyone at work is the best way forward. It makes them aware and able to offer support, and adds a certain level of accountability. And that is true in an ideal workplace. Unfortunately, not every colleague is going to be understanding. Some may want to avoid you completely. Others may not trust your abilities anymore, and may even try and undermine you with the higher-ups. Be selective. Hopefully, you have at least one or two colleagues that you can count as friends. Share with them. Assure them your personal struggles are not going to interfere with your job, but tell them you trust and respect them enough to bring them in on your recovery. You don’t need to ask them to do anything...just letting them in on the “secret” is enough.

Share with your immediate supervisors ONLY when you’re comfortable doing so. You don’t owe them anything, and if your struggle is not negatively affecting your job performance, it’s entirely up to you whether you share it with them at all.

Never Use Your Problems as an Excuse

Never, ever, ever use your personal struggles as an excuse at work. It will get difficult to keep your personal demons and professional life separate, but it’s paramount that you do. The second you use your addiction, or depression, or whatever issue you’re facing as the reason for dropping the ball with co-workers, you’ve lost their trust. If your colleagues don’t trust you, they won’t want to work on anything with you. Your managers might stop assigning anything of even mild importance to you. Your career could be DOA.

Identify Your Friends

It is important and necessary to identify your friends, both at work and in your personal spheres. Lean on them when you have to. Everyone needs support when struggling. Share your struggle with those you know you can trust, those you know are going to want to help (and not judge) in any way they can. These people will be your lifeline. And if you have friends or family that either a) will harshly judge and criticize, or b) are themselves subject to the same dark patterns (like a drinking buddy, for example), you might need to remove them from your life. Surround yourself with the positive. Remove and avoid the negative.

Get Support

Outside of your friends and family, you should consider finding an outside source of support. A group of people going through the same thing - like Alcoholics or Drug Addicts Anonymous - could very well be the difference between successfully breaking the destructive habits in your life, and failing to stop the cycle. Check out local support groups. Look into mental wellness programs offered in your town or city. Find online forums. Start visiting a therapist. If you’re so inclined, speak to a religious leader and inquire about support groups or counseling that they might offer. But find something. Friends and family are wonderful, and you need them, but they can’t relate directly to what you’re going through. A group can.

Set Small Goals and Milestones

Don’t expect this to be easy or quick. It won’t be either. So, frequently set small and achievable goals. Take it one day at a up drugs or alcohol if you’re addicted is very difficult and seems overwhelming, but giving them up for a morning, or a single day, is doable. Then celebrate, and set the goal again. Repeat as many times as you need to completely break free.

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Demons. Issues. Struggles. Problems. We all have them from time to time and in varying degrees. Taking it one day at a time, having the right attitude, and finding the right kind of support means it shouldn’t affect your career plans and momentum. And if it does - if you just can’t function at work - you owe it to yourself to perhaps step away and focus 100% on getting healthy once again. No job is worth sacrificing your health - mental, physical, or otherwise.

Photo Credit: Celestine Chua

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