Managing Your Anxiety Returning to Work

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Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Returning either from a work absence or pandemic work requirements can be challenging.

If you have been out of the workplace for quite some time, the thought of returning can fill you with dread. However, there are different strategies and approaches that you can use to keep these stress and anxiety levels as low as possible and protect your mental health.

No matter whether you have been working remotely because of the pandemic, you have been on maternity leave, or you have been absent from work for some other reason, if you are feeling stressed and anxious, this is completely normal.

We will provide you with a number of tips and pieces of advice that can help you to navigate this so that you can feel more comfortable and confident about going back to the physical workplace in the near future.

A woman throws her hand up in the air at work
Every change requires adaption. Don’t rush the return to work process. Be prepared for a period of acclimatization and challenges but with focus and support, you will be successful.

Why does in-person work make you feel anxious?

The first thing that you need to do is address the reasons why you have return to work anxiety.

It could be because you are nervous about seeing your colleagues again. You may be feeling anxious because you feel rusty about your job. There are many different reasons why people feel anxious and stressed about returning to the workplace.

Covid-19 has increased return to work anxiety

In light of everything that has happened over the past couple of years, a lot of people have work anxiety about safety and about being in close contact with other people again.

There are different things that cause people to have work anxiety. The only way that you are going to be able to erase these feelings is if you understand why they are happening in the first place and what is triggering them.

Once you understand this, you can put a plan together to address these issues and make sure that you feel more comfortable and confident about returning to the office environment.

Are you anxious about returning because you feel out of practice?

For example, if you are nervous about returning to work because you feel rusty about the task at hand, then you may want to spend a few days in the buildup familiarizing yourself with the sort of things that you usually do in your job. A little bit of workplace roleplay if you like!

Remove anxious thoughts by meeting up with colleagues

If you are nervous about seeing your colleagues again after having so much time off work and minimal social interactions, you may want to try and arrange a little get together or share lunch with them before you return to the workplace, and we are sure that this will help to ease your worries.

If they can’t arrange to meet with you, even a little phone conversation or exchanging a few text messages can help to put your mind at ease.

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Ease back into office work by managing your schedule and expectations of productivity.

Managing anxiety on your commute

We would also highly recommend that you choose some sort of common activity that you can practice during your commute so that you can help to keep the stress levels as low as possible.

A lot of people can feel anxiety and stress levels increase while they are on their commute. This is because your commute gives you the chance to start thinking about things and when this happens, people worry.

This is why it is important to find a way that you can find your calm and keep your stress levels as low.

For example, if you walk to work then you may want to focus on your breath and take the chance to look at the sites around you and take in the different sounds.

If you take public transport, you should put together a playlist of tracks that make you feel happy and inspire you. Little things like this can make a massive difference.

close-up photography of man standing front of a passing train
Don’t be surprised that there is a period of adjustment as you get used to the change in the workplace. Give yourself time to adjust and patience with the stress that you are feeling.

Getting into a new routine and finding balance in daily life

One of the difficulties that a lot of people have when it comes to returning to work is that they carry their stresses and worries with them and this floods into their social and personal lives.

They struggle to sleep because they are worried about work and then this becomes a vicious cycle.

Lack of sleep and stress go hand-in-hand

When you have not had enough sleep, you are not able to perform to your highest level and then you start worrying that your workplace performance is not at the level it should be.

You then find that you can’t sleep because you’re worried about this and still the cycle continues.

Consider keeping a work journal to help with anxiety and other potential threats to your state of mind

This is why it is a good idea to keep a work journal. Before you go to bed, you can write down the things that have challenged you throughout the day and what you need to focus on when you return to work the following day.

You can write down any worries that you have but also write down the achievements that you have experienced throughout the day and anything that you look forward to.

Simply the act of writing this down will help you to offload these feelings and emotions so that you do not carry them with you when you are trying to go to sleep at night.

This will help you to get a better night of rest and you will go to work the following day feeling revitalized and ready to tackle the day ahead rather than feeling worried because you have been up all night feeling stressed.

Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional or speak with Human Resources

Last but not least, if you are struggling to manage the stress by yourself, it is important to realize that there is help available and that you can speak with someone who will help you to keep your stress levels low and really get to the bottom of why you are feeling this way and what is triggering you about a return to the workplace.

Why not see a counselor for support?

A lot of people feel anxious about seeing a stranger or talking with a mental health counselor but they really can be a huge difference in your life.

They are understanding and objective, and they have helped many people in your situation before. So, do not rule out this option if you are finding that you cannot cope with the stress and the worry that is flooding your mind and body with regard to returning to the workplace and seeing coworkers again.

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