After a long year of widespread unemployment, it’s natural to have some nervousness about returning to work. While the vaccinations have proven effective and COVID case numbers are down in most parts of the United States, returning to work after COVID can still cause some stress. Like any period of transition, it’s natural to feel some amount of anxiety.
So if you’re dealing with some back to work anxiety, then we want to help. Keep reading for our back to work tips to help keep your anxiety in check and make the transition back to work as smooth as possible.
Why Am I Worried About Going Back to Work After COVID?
For a lot of people, these feelings of anxiety can feel confusing. After all, returning to work can mean an improved financial situation and a feeling of returning to normalcy. So what’s causing this stress about going back to work?
Psychologists attribute this phenomenon to “reentry anxiety,” or stress related to going back to normal after a year where social distancing meant safety. It typically comes in one of two forms, the first where an individual is concerned about safety. In cases like this, your anxiety might be centered around concern for not catching or transmitting COVID-19 while working. This is especially common in people who are returning to the office after working from home, since they already have the financial stability that comes with employment.
The other common type of reentry anxiety is based on going back to regular social interaction. For many individuals, socialization skills have gotten rusty over the past year, and it can feel uncomfortable to imagine having to interact with people every day again. As a result, you might find yourself dreading going back to work after COVID.
A little bit of anxiety is normal, but when it starts to feel debilitating, it’s time to take steps to get your anxiety under control.
Going Back to Work Tips
If you’re feeling anxious about returning to work after COVID, we want to give you the tools to take control of those feelings of stress. Check out a few activities and practices you can try to help minimize your fears of returning to work.
1. Imagine Situations You’re Afraid Of
It can seem counterintuitive, but sometimes imagining a scary situation can help you work through it and make a plan. For example, if you’re worried about interacting with customers again, have a little conversation with yourself where you walk through a conversation with a customer. Plan some of your reactions, so that when you’re in the moment, you’ll know what you want to say.
This can help both job performance and your stress levels. Returning to work after COVID can be frightening, but it’ll be easier if you feel like you’re prepared and know what to do. So try making a plan of what you’ll do in uncomfortable situations, and that should help control your anxiety about going back to work.
2. Visit Work First
If you can, try going back to your office before it officially opens up again. Just sitting at your desk again could help get rid of some of your anxiety about returning to work, since it will feel more real and less abstract. Even if you can’t physically enter your office, consider walking around the area near your workplace just to get used to being in that space again.
Don’t be concerned if things don’t look or feel like you remember, either. A lot has changed in the past year, and part of transitioning back to regular life is creating a new normal. Getting used to this idea can help you keep a cool head as you plan to return to work.
3. Find Ways to Stay Safe at Work
If you’re concerned about staying safe at work, then it can be distressing to see coworkers choose not to be vaccinated and then refuse to wear masks or social distancing. Look into your workplace’s COVID-19 safety policy to see what kind of accommodations you can expect them to make sure that you feel comfortable and protected while on the job. Being familiar with the policies can help if you need to advocate for yourself to make sure that cleaning practices are being applied as intended.
You can also try talking with your coworkers and expressing your boundaries, like not wanting to be too close when speaking, or asking them to use hand sanitizer before using shared equipment. This does not need to be a conflict or an attack, but simply an expression of how to make your workplace a place where everyone can feel comfortable and work effectively.
When Anxiety About Returning to Work Is Something More
It’s no secret that the past year has been a bad year for mental health. And for many people, anxiety about returning to work after COVID is more than a temporary or situational issue. Instead, it may simply be an expression of an underlying anxiety disorder.
So how can you tell normal stress about returning to work from an anxiety disorder? Well, if trying strategies to minimize your anxiety doesn’t work, that could be a sign that you need more intensive care. Or, if you go back to work and your anxiety doesn’t seem to go away, or you become anxious about something else immediately, this could indicate a more persistent issue with anxiety and stress.
In either case, there are treatment options available to you in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. At Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we provide inpatient mental health treatment for cases of anxiety and chronic stress. In this safe and welcoming space, we help people overcome persistent anxiety that creates problems in daily living. This could mean problems returning to work, issues with feeling safe in public, or other types of stress that make daily living feel impossible.
Would you like to learn more about how we serve Brown county with accredited mental health treatment? Call our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4930 or submit your questions online. Going back to work after COVID can seem scary, but there are resources near you that can help ease this transition.