- Posted by Jon Harju
- On May 19, 2020
The pandemic lockdown has inevitably changed life as we know it. Every day we speculate how long we’ve got left in our current lockdown situation, but when it comes to a lift on restrictions, will we be hesitant to venture out?
As provincial governments make plans and announcements around relaxing the lockdown, some people are unsurprisingly feeling anxious about what is next. Some are questioning, what will our new normal look like? How will our jobs, family life, and relationships be affected? How will we adjust our routines again?
It’s normal to have an anxious response, especially if you have a pre-diagnosed anxiety disorder. Many people worried about coping with lockdown, therefore its equally likely that worries will surface about the next ‘adjustment’ phase and whatever this may bring.
The mental health affect when dealing with constant uncertainty
Studies show that our brains are hardwired to deal better with the certainty of something negative, and that uncertainty is even more stressful than knowing something bad is definitely going to happen. Just the anticipation of pain, grief, or difficulty can be more challenging for us to manage than those actual experiences. These continue to be unprecedented times so it’s natural that your body reacts by going into stress mode.
Understandably, it will take time for us to get used to the new version of life in the next phase of the pandemic. Simple everyday experiences such as being outside again and getting used to increased noise levels and busyness are going to take time. So as you adapt, remember to show yourself a little self-compassion.
Normalizing uncertainty can bring relief for post-lockdown anxiety
One of the small positives the lockdown presented was that it forced us to slow down and take stock, with many people streamlining their lives to adapt to a new normal.
We may feel we have control of our regular day-to-day lives that include planned out routines and goals for the future, but it can be helpful to take a step back and remind ourselves that uncertainty in life is nothing new.
The pandemic has revealed the truth that everything we take for granted can be taken away: our freedom to travel, going to a store and buying what we want, meeting up with friends, hugging our loved ones. This is a real opportunity to see how quickly things can change, and how quickly we need to and can adapt.
How to handle back to work anxiety
If you find yourself struggling with anxiety following the break from being in the workplace, here are some strategies to make the transition a little easier.
Talk with your boss
It can help to think about the source of your worries if you’re experiencing anxiety in returning to the workplace. Try not to take on more than you can manage, and have a conversation with your manager or team if you are feeling overwhelmed. If your workload is the problem, raise the issue with your boss to help find a solution. If your commute is the problem, enquire about flexible and remote working. Perhaps you can work from home for a day or two a week, or adjust your start and finish times to avoid the worst of rush hour.
Try some mindfulness
Post- lockdown back to work anxiety, can encourage ‘what if’ statements as many people project ahead and worry about what may – or may not – happen. Being aware of your surroundings with mindfulness can help you stay present in the moment and improve your mental well-being.
Try practicing breathwork to help to reduce these feelings by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, for around three minutes, ensuring that your ‘out-breath’ is longer than your ‘in-breath’.
Don’t forget that exercise is good for your mental health too. Physical activity releases brain chemicals such as endorphins, helping to boost your mood. Although going back to work can be exhausting, try to make time for a short workout, a bike ride, or even just a walk to help cope with feelings of anxiety.
Plan fun things
It’s important to plan some enjoyable things on the horizon as you return to work. Whether it’s planning a catch-up or coffee break with a colleague, arranging to see friends at the weekend, or taking time for yourself, planning something you enjoy can help you tackle those feelings of dread and avoid feelings of overwhelm.
Acknowledge the positives of your job
Try to focus on the people or elements of your job that you enjoy. Write a list of what you enjoy doing at work, such as helping others, problem-solving, dealing with projects or being part of a team. It’s also important to remember that work doesn’t define you, so think about other elements to your life, such as hobbies, family, and other interests – and how they impact and enrich your life.
Seek professional help
If anxiety or low frequent low mood is getting in the way of enjoyable things you were once able to do without feeling anxious, consider seeking professional help. Anxiety is a recognized condition that, if left untreated, can lead a person to find it difficult to cope. Talking through your concerns with a mental healthcare professional can help you adopt coping strategies for managing your anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be excellent for working out solutions and learning new skills to keep on top of your mental health.
Embrace a new normal with sensitivity and care
It’s essential to be kinder to yourself and others and do what you need to do in order to get by for the first few days back in the office, rather than take on too much. When we emerge back into the outside world, it’s important we do so with the sensitivity and care that this pandemic has helped us to nurture.
Download Snapclarity to access mental well-being resources and support from the comfort of your home.