Returning To Work Anxiety

Posted on 13 Jul 2020

Being away from work and the office for such a long period time can feel daunting. You may be concerned about COVID-19 and the fear of catching the virus, you may be worried about not being able to adequately social distance from your work colleagues, or you may feel anxious about returning to work after working from home, and traveling to work again on public transport or just being away from your family.  Theses are normal feeling and it is often the simple things that can help you adjust to being back at work and focus on what needs to be done.

However, if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed or struggling with anxiety after being away from work during the COVID-19 lockdown, there are steps you can take to make the transition a little easier.

What is Anxiety?

“Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone feels anxious from time to time and it usually passes once the situation is over” NHS

Many people will experience anxiety at some time.  Normal anxiety is part of the body’s natural defence system, it can alert us to an unknown threat and help us to avoid dangerous situations and motivate us to solve everyday problems.

General Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can show itself in a range of ways

Physical

  • Palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, dry mouth etc.

Psychological

  • Mind racing, decreased concentration and memory, confusion, nervousness, feeling on edge

Behavioural

  • Avoid situations, urge to escape situations, distress in social situations.

Tips on How to Manage Anxiety?

The NHS have set out some top tips on how to deal with anxiety

Understand your anxiety

Record your thoughts and keep a journal about how you are feeling at different times.  Try to find out what is affecting you and why?

Make time for worries

Try not to let your anxiety take over you day.  Set aside ‘worry time’ to go through what is bothering you each day. This can help you focus on other things.

Face the things you want to avoid

Do not avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable as this can keep your anxiety going.  Try to build up the courage to address these emotions and feeling of anxiety will reduce and you will feel safe again in these situations.

Challenge your anxious thoughts

Questioning your negative thoughts will help you to feel less anxious.

Shift your focus

Try to think of something else when you feel your anxiety beginning to emerge.  Try some relaxion techniques or some breathing exercise.  They will help you to focus your attention and reduce the anxiety. Try NHS-recommended relaxation exercises

Get to grips with the problem

Try to use a problem-solving technique when you feel anxious or stressed. They may help you to find a solution to how you are feeling which in turn can make it more manageable.

We care about your health and wellbeing and the protection and hygiene measures that were in place in the office before lockdown will still be in place on your return.  You will be encouraged to continue with the handwashing procedures, and we will provide hand sanitiser and any other equipment as required.  If you are still feeling anxious or concerned, then please see below:

Speak to your Line Manger

Let you line manger know how you are feeling. Have a chat about your concerns and let them know what is worrying you. It is normal to feel apprehensive or concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak and it is OK to share and talk about how you are feeling.  If you believe that you cannot talk to your line manager about your concerns, there a number of helplines available you may want to try instead. 

Make a Return to Work Plan

Most of us will be feeling stressed about returning to work after being at home for such a long time.  But making a return to work plan and preparing to come back to work can make it less challenging.  This may mean getting back into your old routines before the COVID-19 lockdown of preparing lunches, getting the kids to school etc.  Working through the effects of returning to work should help you feel more prepared and less anxious. Think through a normal work week and what do you need to do to. 

Be realistic

Work and office life are not going to be the same as before.  Returning to work in phased approach and social distancing from colleagues may feel strange at first.  Therefore, it is important to set realistic expectations of yourself and the weeks ahead. It is perfectly acceptable to be kind to yourself and do what you need to get by for the first few days back in the office.  Remember, we are all in this together.  

Mindfulness

For some people experiencing back to work anxiety is all about projecting ahead and worrying about what may or may not happen.  Just take a couple of deep breathes whenever you feel anxious or practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about being aware of your surroundings and can help you stay in the moment and improve your mental wellbeing.

Get in contact with your colleagues

Why not try to set up a Zoom meeting with your team.  Perhaps organise a virtual coffee morning with them and have a chat about how you have been keeping yourself busy during lockdown

Exercise

We know exercise is good for our mental health, as physical activity releases brain chemicals such as endorphins, which help boost our mood. Although going back to work can be exhausting, making time for to exercise can help cope with feelings of anxiety 

Focus on the Positives

Concentrate on the people and aspects of the job that you enjoy, helping others, problem solving, being part of a team etc.

The important thing to remember is that none of these are a one-size-fits-all solutions, you need to find what works for you through good old-fashioned trial and error.  We will all need a period of adjustment as navigate our way through the challenges of COVID-19 and this new way or working, 

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