How to Take an Emotional Break from Your Coworkers

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Interpersonal relationships in the workplace can become difficult situations if you’re dealing with an emotional bully who has emotionally disruptive tendencies. These disruptions can appear in many forms in the workplace, it can be that a colleague is causing too much drama, or that your colleagues are too invested in office gossip, or it can even be your annoyance with a colleague who’s manipulating other people to get ahead. All of this drama can become emotionally exhausting and seriously hinder your workplace productivity, while it can also ruin your life outside work. When you feel the need to hide under your desk or stay hidden in the bathroom stall, you know it’s time to take an emotional break from your colleagues. You need to find a way to disconnect emotionally from the situation and focus on regaining your own productivity. So read on for ways to take an emotional break from your colleagues.

1. Avoid reacting emotionally

One of the first things you need to do is to avoid reacting emotionally. Being too emotionally invested in a situation can cause you to react irrationally, which might end up much the same way as your annoying emotional colleague. Remember, you’re trying to take an emotional break from this person, so it’s important to avoid reacting emotionally and start thinking rationally. For example, when this individual comes to your office to share her story about being dumped by the same guy for the fifth time, stay rational, focus on your work and politely tell this person that you understand she’s dealing with stuff but you need to work. If you react emotionally by commiserating with her story and agreeing that her ex-boyfriend is a jerk, you’re not exactly taking an emotional break. Rather, you’re falling into the trap of emotional co-dependency. Work is supposed to be work, not a social club.

2. Establish clear boundaries at work

This step may be difficult, especially if you’ve never taken an emotional break before. If you’ve been the go-to person for every drama queen and king, you have your work cut out for you. First make a decision that you are establishing both emotional and physical boundaries. For example, you need to become so focused on work that you are not sucked into the realm of the emotionally unstable behavior of your colleagues. If you haven’t set these emotional boundaries within your own mindset, you will easily fall back to being manipulated, walked on and used as a sounding board in a non-symbiotic relationship.

Additionally, you should set up physical boundaries between you and the emotionally unstable colleagues that have been disrupting your daily work. If you work in an office, keep your door closed more often. Don’t take the same route you usually take when walking passed this person’s desk to the break room. Record the number of times that you’ve had to deal with emotional outbursts from this person. Make yourself scarce whenever you hear them coming near your office. Wear headphones while working to fend off any undesired conversation. If this person is not getting the point of your “invisible” boundaries, you will need to speak with her to share your need to distance yourself and take an emotional break from the drama.

3. Schedule a personal day off

Depending on the severity of the situation and how negatively affected by it you are, you may need to schedule a personal day off. Call it a mental health day where you can take an emotional break from the drama at the office. Sometimes simply getting out of the emotionally draining atmosphere can help you breathe again and refocus your mindset. When you take that day off you can relax, regroup and prepare yourself to return to work the next day with a renewed mindset that will not get sucked in to the drama.

When taking your emotional break, consider going to a spa for that long-overdue massage. Maybe meet one of your girlfriends to get a manicure or pedicure. Sign up for that hot yoga class you’ve been wanting to attend for months. Grab some coffee at one of your favorite cafés or meet the girls at a local tea house. For the guys—yeah, they have feelings too—take your emotional break and hang out at your local sports bar to get some wings and beer and watch a game. In order to truly take an emotional break from this colleague or colleagues, you need to decompress on your day off and not even think about the drama at work.

4. Proactively cultivate positivity

The final way to take an emotional break from your colleagues is to be proactive in your attempts at cultivating positivity in the workplace environment. There are two basic environments at your job—your own workstation and the entire office space. To take an emotional break you first need to focus on cultivating positivity in your own workstation. You can break free from the emotional disruptions by keeping your own mindset focused on positive things.

For example, listen to upbeat music or something from your favorite playlist while working. One caveat is that you need to either use earbuds or listen to the music at a low volume. Take an emotional break from your colleagues by trying to turn the negative situation into a positive one that is drama free. For example, speak to your manager about doing something fun with your department such as hosting a Friday night Happy hour at one of the local bars or restaurants. Ask your manager it’s alright to schedule a team day on the weekend with your colleagues, such as a hike or a volunteering project.

Another option is to invite your manager for lunch and speak to him about the situation. Or you could even get a life coach to help you cope with the situation.

Feeling the need to take an emotional break from one of your coworkers is a sign that you should not avoid. If you avoid that need for too long, you will become more agitated, unfocused and unmotivated in your work. If that happens, you run the risk of not working to your full potential each day in your job.

Remember to work diligently on not reacting emotionally to these dramatic situations in the workplace. Emotional reactions will only fuel the fire in a negative way. Set clear boundaries in your mind that will be acted upon in the emotional and physical realms. Don’t hesitate to take a mental health day where you can take that emotional break from your colleagues and try to refocus on what’s important -which is being mentally and physically productive in the workplace. Make every effort to create an environment that cultivates positivity in your own personal space as well as in the entire workplace.

Have you ever had to deal with a colleague from whom you needed to take an emotional break? How did you react and what steps did you take to allow yourself to have an emotional time out?