Dealing with the anxiety of returning to work during a pandemic? Here are some insights and tips to manage apprehension and promote positive mental health.
While we are seeing new surges in COVID-19 due to the Delta variant, returning to the office seems to be taking on a hybrid model. While most people adapted to working from home for the last 16 months, companies are adopting a flexible schedule mixing both environments. Anxiety about returning to work, also known as re-entry anxiety, is a real thing for many. While there are different personalities and different opinions about COVID-19, there are ways to effectively manage the presence of back-to-the-office stress. How? Let’s move straight to five strategies that will help eliminate stress and make the transition back into a cohabitating work environment easier.
- Be Mindful
- Practice Self Care
- Plan Ahead
- Social Anxiety
One tried and true way to work through feelings of anxiety is mindfulness. According to Psych Central, “In mindfulness-based therapy, the person focuses on the bodily sensations that arise when he or she is anxious. Instead of avoiding or withdrawing from these feelings, he or she remains present and fully experiences the symptoms of anxiety.” It is then that a person is able to acknowledge and work through their feelings effectively. Focused breathing is a famous mindfulness technique in which you relax and focus solely on your breathing. Watch your thoughts go back and forth through your mind, without trying to interpret them. Practicing mindfulness will make your transition to the office again much easier.
During lockdown, many people found themselves dissociated from peers and family. The feeling of isolation either made you content or made you feel separation anxiety. Now that it is time to reintegrate ourselves into society, the anxiety of returning to work can cause a mental strain. So how do we cope? In times of stress, it becomes important to talk, understand and convey. Keep yourself synced with your coworkers, managers, or employers. If you had a stressful event during the pandemic, let your employer know. If you are experiencing a daily struggle, talk it out with a co-worker. If you have discovered positive environmental factors while at home that have improved your productivity, speak with your boss about how to integrate those factors into your workspace at the office.
Many people struggle with time management and practicing self-love. If you are experiencing anxiety about returning to work, giving yourself grace should be on the menu. What are things you enjoy doing that bring you peace? Going for a walk, reading a book, completing a workout? When you tap into those endorphins by doing something you love, you release neurotransmitters that bring you a feeling of calmness and happiness. If you continue to have anxiety about returning to work and it is interfering with your everyday life, contact your doctor about possible mood enhancing medications.
Epinephrin is the flight or fight neurotransmitter that is released when we are stressed or fearful. Dopamine helps us feel pleasure while serotonin stabilizes our feelings of happiness.
Planning ahead while working from home can simply mean setting the coffee to brew at 6 a.m. It can also mean scheduling conference calls around taking the pup for a walk or throwing in a load of laundry while reciting a Zoom presentation. Returning to the office requires transitioning back to your previous ways of planning ahead. It can ease the anxiety of returning to work with a bit of attention and execution. Decide the night before what you are going to wear to the office. Whether traveling to work by plane, train, automobile or on foot, anticipate obstacles that may arise like weather, an empty gas tank, delayed flights. Are the kids returning to school? Plan extra time for the carpool lane. Mostly recognize that while you can plan ahead all day, it’s important to be flexible and adapt to change with a positive mindset.
Working remote has forced isolation as we worked behind a computer for over a year, missing out on visits with friends and family. Now that the time is approaching to reintegrate into the office, the anxiety of returning to work exists. Gen Z’s and millennials are likely to appreciate the opportunity to absorb the social interactions while baby boomers and Gen X individuals may cringe. If you find yourself struggling to return to the office due to anxiety of returning to work, speak with your boss about a slow integration, perhaps starting with half days or one to two days a week. If you continue to struggle with social anxiety, speaking with a counselor can provide you with additional coping mechanisms and make the transition less stressful.
Here to Help
While the apprehension of returning to work may seem overwhelming, trying to ease back into the office and practicing the above anti-anxiety techniques can make it easier. If your anxiety does not seem manageable, our team at American Online Benefits Group is here to help. We offer plans that include doctor’s visits and at-home testing to determine best how to guide you to a state of positive mental health. Contact our Agent or Member Services today at 214-389-9072.