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Expert’s tips on how to survive work with a broken heart

Pictured: Abbie Chatfield and Matt Agnew on The Bachelor. Image: Network 10
Abbie Chatfield had her heart broken by Bachelor Matt Agnew. Image: Network 10

Australia watched on last night as Abbie Chatfield’s heart broke on national television.

Worse still, Chatfield was unable to share her heartbreak with the country until today.

While Chatfield’s situation is far from common, many Australians will have had to return to normal life after a breakup. So, how do you do it?

A Japanese marketing firm made headlines in 2008 after it decided to offer staff paid time off to mend after a bad breakup.


But as more workplaces understand the value of their workers’ mental health, that story may not be so revolutionary today.

However, that doesn’t mean going back to work when you’re suffering from a heart-break is much easier.

In fact, a broken heart can even kill you. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy - or broken-heart syndrome - is a temporary heart condition triggered by stress, and according to Harvard University, up to 5 per cent of women who have had a heart attack suffered from the condition.

And while not as dramatic, anyone who has suffered a broken heart will understand the uniquely awful sadness that accompanies it.

It means fronting up to work and performing at your best can seem like impossible tasks, but according to HR expert and founder of Corporate Dojo, Karen Gately, mutual trust and respect at work can help the broken hearted to survive those tough days in the office.

“Life's tough,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“Whether it's as a relationship breakdown, whether it's a sick child, whether it's a parent who's not coping, it's endless. Even things like moving house are unbelievably stressful.

“We all have stuff that is going on, and employers are completely naive if they think that people step out of their home suit into their work one and just leave everything at the door. That just doesn't happen.”

She said people generally find it difficult to leave external challenges outside of work, and beyond that, we also have different abilities to cope with problems and compartmentalise the different parts of our lives.

“It's so important for working relationships to be built on trust and respect, and obviously that's a two way street.”

How to deal with your heart-break in the office

She suggested heart-sick people go to their bosses and say, “I just want to give you a heads up that I'm going to be a bit sensitive. I'm working really hard to be focused on being here. But the reality is I'm heart-broken. And I just need you to know that, so if I'm unusually quiet or emotional, you'll get what's going on."

If your boss doesn’t understand that, it’s time for you to seriously think about the sort of people you’re working for, and with, she added.

“Because if you can't understand that someone is heart-broken right now, and they're working really hard to get it together, then you lack empathy, you lack compassion, and you’re in that psychopathic space.”

Beyond this conversation, the best way to deal with a romantic break down at work is the same way you deal with it out of work.

What else can you do to get over a breakup?

Keep busy

“You might find yourself with too much free time on your hands, especially on weekends. Plan ahead and do things that you usually enjoy,” mental health support service Headspace suggests.

The same goes for when you’re at work. If you can focus on small, achievable tasks, it may help remind you of the other great parts of your life.

But not too busy - it’s good to reflect

According to a study in Social Psychology and Personality Science, reflecting on your heart-break can help you mend.

The researchers studied 210 recently heart-broken people, half of whom were told to come into the lab regularly to talk about their breakup for nine weeks. This group fared much better than the second group who only had to fill out two surveys, one at the beginning and at the end.

Give yourself time

As the Australian National University says, it’s important to also give yourself time. There’ll probably be a good stretch of time where you’ll feel down.

“There are no short cuts when the relationship has mattered to you.”

Look after yourself

As with any mental health challenge, it’s critical that you make sure you’re eating well, sleeping well and exercising. As Gately said, these are the small - and often difficult - steps that can help your mind stay healthy during times of trouble.

This story was updated on 20 September 2019.

Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit
Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit

The Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit will discuss the future of work and take place on the 26th September 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. Check out the full line-up of speakers and agenda here.