Governments around the world are lifting coronavirus restrictions which allows employers to reopen their businesses and ask employees to return to work. If over the past few months you’ve been working from home, this change might result in mixed feelings.
On the one hand, you may feel some enthusiasm and relief. Things are starting to go back to normal. On the other hand: what’s normal under these circumstances? You might start to feel a great deal of anxiety. For so many months, “being safe” and “staying home” were used interchangeably.
You had gotten used to your routine, and now the anxiety you felt at the beginning of the pandemic is starting to return. Let’s explore what this transition means to your mental health and how therapy can help.
The anxiety you might be experiencing right now is in large part the result of uncertainty. How often will your office get cleaned? How will you interact with your colleagues? Will they wear masks? What about the commute? These are just some of the questions that might be running through your mind. When we don’t know what’s going to happen, we try to imagine it. The scenarios become increasingly catastrophic.
The truth is that when businesses reopen, a typical workday will look very different from what we were used to, and we will have to adjust. The first step is to acknowledge your anxiety to be respectful of your feelings and needs. Don’t criticize yourself for how you feel. You are going through a transition which will require time and patience.
The second step is to recognize the physical signs of anxiety such as restlessness, tightness in your chest and shallow breathing. Then you can connect these signs to environmental triggers. For instance, you may notice that scrolling through your social media feed, and reading updates about the pandemic is causing you anxiety so you can limit this activity to what you can handle.
You’ll also want to discuss your concerns with your employer. Keep in mind that they’re also assessing the risks involved in this transition and are trying to figure out strategies to maintain morale and productivity. Most likely, they’ll inform you about what precautionary measures they’re taking to keep you safe and ask you for feedback in regards to what would make you feel more comfortable.
Returning to work may cause stress, anxiety and even symptoms of depression. You will not be the only one going through this process. Similarly to the beginning of the pandemic, different people will have different reactions, but they will all be affected on some level.
Remind yourself that when news first broke out of the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, anxiety level rose and somehow we managed to get through it. You have already gone through a transition. You started working remotely and following social distancing regulations during the lockdown. Now you’re returning to work, but you are already familiar with your office.
It helps to keep in mind that your anxiety is not an unchangeable trait, a part of your personality. Anxiety is a reaction to something. If you need to talk to someone, a therapist can help you learn additional coping strategies so you can manage these difficult emotions.