With the gradual reopening of various businesses, your employers may now be having discussions with you about returning to your office. Naturally, this may evoke some feelings of anxiety and the anticipation of returning may feel overwhelming and daunting. A study carried out by Wakefield Research discovered that 66% of employees are worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to the workplace.
Below are five things you can do to help you manage anxiety around returning to the workplace.
Self-compassion plays a huge role in helping us manage challenging emotions like anxiety. Remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about returning to work during a pandemic. It’s okay to feel distressed, uncertain, and perhaps even angry. Refusing to acknowledge that our feelings are valid places additional stress on us to feel differently. When we can’t feel differently, then we start to self-blame or self-criticize which is harmful for our mental well-being.
Maintain your boundaries
There are things that fall outside of our control when returning to the workplace such as cleaning protocols and how individuals adhere to safety measures. One thing we can count on that is within our control though, is how we assert our boundaries. Consider how you feel about hugging colleagues, spending time with them in meeting rooms, sitting with them for lunch, and wearing a mask around others. Depending on your personal boundaries with these types of situations, you always have the choice to ask someone to take a step back to maintain social distance, to wear a mask when in a room with you, or not to touch you physically. Know your boundaries and assert them.
Returning to the workplace will have its uncertainties. How often will cleaning take place? What happens if someone contracts COVID-19? Will there be hand sanitizers available? Don’t be afraid to speak to your manager to find those answers. Your company is likely doing a risk assessment if they’re discussing returning to the office and these questions will have answers. Arming yourself with this knowledge will help you prepare.
Plan your new routine
All of us have adjusted to work from home. We may have changed parts of our daily routine related to child-minding, exercise, meal prepping, etc. Your routine will inevitably change again once you return to your workplace. Identify any logistical, financial, or emotional adjustments needed by carefully considering what may need to change. Also, don’t forget that your work routine pre-COVID may look different to your work routine during COVID.
Healthy coping skills
Learn some healthy coping strategies to manage anxiety symptoms. Anxiety sets off our fight, flight, freeze response so we often experience bodily sensations like shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and even trembling or sweating. Paced breathing is an effective skill to learn because it brings your nervous system back to equilibrium. To practice this exercise, breathe from your belly and let each breathe cycle last approximately 12 seconds, ensuring your out breath is longer than your in breath. Focus on your paced breathing until your physical symptoms subside.
If your anxiety feels so intense that you cannot engage in your daily activities for 2 weeks or more, we advise you to reach out to your GP or a mental health professional.
Many of our workshops are designed to reduce stress and anxiety, especially about returning to the workplace.