acquiesce - April 15th, 2021

How to Deal with Anxiety Upon Returning to Work

As the end of the coronavirus lockdown approaches, many people may be feeling anxious about returning to work. The coronavirus crisis and its lockdowns have affected each and everyone of us in different ways and it’s only natural to feel apprehensive about the future in such uncertain times.

Many people feel confused, worried and anxious about returning to work, especially if their organisations have made significant changes to the ordinary way of working in order to comply with government regulations. For others, the social aspect of returning to work can feel daunting, particularly after months of having to stay at home and limit socialising.

Whilst these feelings are completely natural and to be expected in such trying circumstances, there are ways of healthily managing any negative feelings and improving your mental wellbeing that will help to make your transition back to work a little easier.

Take Time to Prepare

Make sure to allow yourself enough time to plan and prepare for your return to work. Think about your working situation prior to lockdown, your current situation and what you can expect upon your return. If you haven’t yet been told what to expect, you can always ask your line manager and check if there will be any changes or provisions put in place to create a safer work environment. 

Consider the following questions to allow yourself to mentally prepare:

  • How will I get there?
  • Will there be any changes to public transport, parking or entering the workplace as a result of the crisis?
  • Who will be there?
  • Will I need to do anything different in regards to my job?

Before the day of your return, it can be helpful to try to remember your usual routine for getting ready and travelling to work. For example, prior to the pandemic, you may have woken up at 7:30am, taken 45 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast and set off for work at 8:15am. 

In order to avoid further stress and anxiety on the day of your return, it may be worth allowing yourself an extra 15-20 minutes so you have plenty of time without rushing.

Additionally, you might also wish to get back into this routine a few days to a week before returning to allow yourself to adjust and transition back more easily. 

Speak with Your Line Manager

As organisations prepare for the return of their employees, there will likely be a lot going on behind the scenes such as risk assessments, safety checks and meetings about ways in which operations might change. If you’re feeling anxious about contracting coronavirus whilst at work, speaking with your line manager may help to put your mind at ease.

They will be able to answer any questions you may have and tell you what to expect when you return, including any measurements put in place to make your workplace as safe as possible. If you’re still concerned about the level of risk, this is something you can discuss further to allow them so make any suitable changes in advance.

Be Kind to Yourself

So often in life we are much too hard on ourselves which is why it’s important to take a step back every now and then and remember to be kinder to yourself. This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone right now and it’s normal to feel confused and upset.

During this time, many of us have had to make great changes to our everyday lives, including spending the majority of time at home, seeing our loved ones less and learning to work differently. Not to mention, just as we have started to adjust to these changes, we’re now tasked with returning to our ordinary lives again, a challenge which can provoke anxiety and stress as our brain becomes aware of a potential new risk. 

Understanding that it’s ok to feel the way you do at the moment can relieve some of the pressure you have built up and learning to treat yourself as you would a friend helps you to develop self-compassion, something which makes us less likely to be depressed, anxious, insecure and stressed. Have regular self check-ins to ask yourself how you’re feeling and whether you can do anything to improve your current mental health.

Keep Things Simple

As part of being kind to yourself, it’s also important to take things one step at a time without putting too much pressure on yourself. Change is one of the most difficult things we experience as humans, so don’t put pressure on yourself to go from 1-100 as everyone else will be in a similar situation. Keep things simple and work your way up from there.

Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms

As you begin to feel anxious, you might notice that your breath quickens, causing your heart to beat faster and leaving you feeling disoriented, overwhelmed and even more anxious than before. To better cope with these feelings, you can learn some simple techniques that focus on your breathing, helping you to relax. 

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are a great coping mechanism as improper breathing can contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and other physical and emotional disturbances.

There are two types of breathing:

  • Diaphragmatic (abdominal)
  • Thoracic (chest)

When we’re anxious, we tend to take more rapid and shallow breaths that come from straight from the chest (thoracic). Unfortunately, this only adds to the problem as chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide level, signalling a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

A popular breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 Breathing:

  1. Close your lips and inhale slowly and quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of seven
  3. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth to the count of eight.
  4. Repeat these steps three more times.

Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are specific statements that help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts about yourself and returning to work. When creating these affirmations, think about the negative thoughts that you often tell yourself and make sure your affirmations are the total opposite of that. Some example of these are:

  • I am strong
  • It’s ok to feel like this
  • I can do this
  • I am powerful
  • I have a purpose
  • I am loved

Cut Out Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Sometimes we develop certain ways of coping with our feelings that can actually affect us more negatively. For example, many people use substances as a short term coping mechanism. These can include alcohol, drugs or even chocolate/sweet treats.

Whilst things like chocolate and alcohol can be great in moderation, they shouldn’t be used to cope whenever you feel anxious as this can develop into an addiction. Due to the way in which alcohol is so commonly used as a way to calm nerves, an individual may not even realise they have an addiction.

In fact, lots of people can maintain a successful lifestyle on the outside, with a great job, relationship, family etc… and yet behind closed doors they find themselves needing a drink (known as a high functioning alcoholic).

If you currently use substances or practices such as frequent gambling in order to cope mentally, you may have an addiction.

How To Get Help

If you believe you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, treatment at Acquiesce begins with a free confidential consultation with a Recovery Practitioner in order to establish the individual needs and suitability for safe treatment with the service.

This can be done over the phone or by booking an appointment at the treatment centre. Once the correct treatment pathway has been decided and agreed upon, Acquiesce provides a safe and therapeutic environment which is conducive to the recovery from addiction.

Following a detoxification for substance addictions, a combination programme of evidence based therapies are then delivered by a team of experienced professionals. The therapies address the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of addiction and utilises holistic therapies, social activities and regular gym and exercise. 

Individuals will understand their addiction and gain the knowledge and tools required for an ongoing sustainable recovery, with a personal relapse prevention plan and on-going aftercare that is provided as standard.

To discuss your recovery, or the recovery of a loved one, please get in touch for a free, anonymous consultation.

Seek Therapy for Anxiety

If you find your anxiety continues to have a severe impact on your day-to-day life or it gets worse, it is crucial that you seek professional help in order to get the right kind of support. Your GP can offer you advice and refer you for treatment if necessary or you can seek private therapy. 

Find an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) here or find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline if you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis.

Finally, take time to remember that you aren’t alone and that many people are in the same position as you. Be kind to yourself and others as we all find our way along this uncertain journey.

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