Tips to ease return-to-work anxiety during pandemic

With access to coronavirus vaccines expanding, pandemic-related restrictions are gradually being lifted across the country — and a Burke, Virginia, psychotherapist has advice for people experiencing anxiety over returning to the office.

“Realize it may not feel as different as you think it’s going to feel … living in a bubble and going back to a situation where it’s going to feel more familiar than you may realize might put your mind at ease,” said Julie Isaacs, regional director of behavioral health at Kaiser Permanente.

“The first couple of days are probably going to feel the most stressful, and then you’re going to get back into your routine and you’re going to be feeling tremendously better.”

Think about the positives associated with getting out of the house, reconnecting with co-workers, having lunch or midday breaks for walks to socialize with co-workers.

Isaacs has tips for easing return-to-work anxiety: “Anything that brings control into your situation where you feel that you know what it’s going to be like will help to reduce that anxiety.”

Talk to the boss:
  • Can you have a hybrid home-office schedule?
  • Can you begin by working weekends or less busy times?
  • Learn what the new office normal will involve. Will there be temperature checks? Can you take mask breaks?
  • Ensure you have access to hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes, or plan to bring your own.
Start practicing at home:
  • Start to wear work clothes again.
  • Transition into work schedule-related routines for sleeping and eating.
  • While maintaining safety protocols, get out more and begin venturing to various locations.
  • Let kids know that changes to everyday life are on the horizon; practice those changes and start building new routines.
Take care of yourself:
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise, take a walk and get some fresh air.
  • Consider using apps such as Calm or myStrength.
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss concerns with friends, family or professionals.

“It’s OK not to be OK,” Isaacs said. “It’s OK to reach out for support and speak with a mental health provider or a primary care doctor for help.”

There also are groups dedicated to offering support and services to people who are struggling. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers peer-led programs and support groups.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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