Managing Post-Covid Anxiety When Returning to the Workplace - MyLifeWell for Business

Managing Post-Covid Anxiety When Returning to the Workplace

After more than a year of working from home, many people are trading in their Zoom meetings and sweatpants for morning meetings in the conference room and office gossip at the water cooler. As Covid vaccines and treatments become more readily available, employers everywhere are preparing to return to the workplace. But though this return to normalcy and pre-pandemic activities is a relief to some, others find themselves experiencing anxiety and stress at the mere thought of working outside of their homes. 


What Causes Return-to-Work Anxiety?


If a return to work was precisely what you had hoped for, why might you be feeling uneasy about it? Dr. Rachel O’Neill, a licensed therapist with Talkspace, told Employee Benefit News that post-Covid anxiety can occur for several reasons. 


  • Coming out of survival mode: Because it’s difficult to process a traumatic event while you’re still in the middle of it, it’s not unusual for someone to go into survival mode. However, your feelings about what you’ve experienced don’t just disappear; they start to surface as life begins returning to its pre-trauma state. 
  • Being unconfident about letting go of old habits: If you’re returning to the office after having worked from home since the pandemic began, you have more than a year’s worth of habits that will need to shift. While some people adapt to change rather quickly, others take longer to adjust, and for those individuals, letting go of pandemic work routines may be a bit daunting. 
  • Feeling emotionally unsafe: Just because it’s physically safe to return to the workplace doesn’t mean it feels safe. After months of being urged to social distance, returning to any sort of social setting may feel uncomfortable or scary. You may be cognitively aware that your work is a safe place to be, but if your feelings tell you differently, you may experience some anxiety. 
  • Personal issues: Unsurprisingly, a large amount of time spent in isolation can cause you to wrestle with whether or not you want to return to your previous job. Do you want a different career? Are you happy with the work that you do? Do you feel fulfilled in your job? Questions like these can generate feelings of anxiety and uneasiness. 

How To Manage Return-to-Work Anxiety


Although a bit of anxiety is normal before trying something new or going back to something after a long time away, it can quickly become overwhelming, especially if left unchecked. Here are a few steps you can take to make your return to the workplace a bit less overwhelming.


Maintain a Consistent Schedule

The first step in combatting post-Covid anxiety is establishing and maintaining a consistent schedule. Since things around you seem to be changing constantly, you’ll want your daily life to feel as structured and routine as possible. Besides, knowing what to expect makes each day seem a bit easier to navigate. 


Be sure you pencil activities you genuinely enjoy into your non-working hours. These not only give you something to look forward to after clocking out at the office, but they also provide a mental health boost and a much-needed distraction from your anxieties and uneasiness. 


Develop Healthy Stress Management Mechanisms

You might notice different ways your post-Covid anxiety affects your body. Maybe it makes your heart race and your breathing shallow and hurried. Or perhaps you feel a little dizzy or nauseous. Whatever your symptoms may be, you must have a few tricks up your sleeve to help alleviate them. 


Everyone finds comfort in different coping techniques, but a few tried-and-true classics include bringing attention to your breath, reciting positive affirmations or mantras, or journaling during your lunch or break time. 


The MyLifeWell app is also an effective tool for managing return-to-work anxiety. Because the app is centered around improving your total wellness — as opposed to just reaching fitness goals and scoring a toned body, although it can help you do that, too —you’ll find classes and coaching that teach you how to properly engage with each of the five pillars of stress management. The app focuses on things like exercise, nutrition, meditation, and more, leading you to a happier and healthier lifestyle. 


What Are the Five Pillars of Stress Management?


Prioritizing each of the five pillars of stress management helps you take charge of your well-being and manage any anxiety that may flare up as you prepare to return to work. But what exactly are they?


  1. Healthy nutrition
  2. Self-care
  3. Exercise
  4. Sleeping well
  5. Taking time to relax

Be Honest With Your Employer

Most of the time, worries are caused by uncertainties. That’s why you should get as much information about returning to the workplace as you can before actually stepping back into the building. Have a conversation with your employer about what returning to the office after Covid will look like. They have likely already assessed all the risks of going back to the office and developed specific strategies and initiatives to help each employee do so smoothly. 


So speak to your manager or employer about your company’s return-to-work plan. Share your concerns about resuming in-person operations and ask any questions you may have about how the workspace will be adapted to keep employees safe. 


Besides, being aware of your company’s post-pandemic policies and protocols can help you advocate for yourself should you end up in a situation where you feel unsafe.


Seek Professional Counsel If Necessary

If post-Covid anxiety continues to linger even after you’ve begun using the MyLifeWell app to manage stress, talked to your company’s higher-ups about the return-to-work plan, maintained a consistent schedule, and developed healthy coping strategies, you may want to consider seeking professional help. Sometimes, you may need a bit of extra support to manage the symptoms of your anxiety, and that’s OK. 


If you find your feelings of worry are keeping you from functioning or are becoming unmanageable, reach out to your primary care physician or call a licensed therapist who has experience treating anxiety. These experts will work with you to get to the root of your issue and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

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