Navigating the ROOM after a year of ZOOM!
After a year of baking banana bread, watching Tiger King and taking part in countless online ZOOM meetings, are you ready for the gradual easing of restrictions and a phased return to the workplace? Below are some of my thoughts on the anxiety experienced by some at the thought of returning to work and some tips on how you might survive and thrive as you transition back to the workplace.
With lockdown restrictions slowly beginning to ease across Scotland it is entirely normal to experience a new source of stress or mild anxiety. Psychologists love a buzzword! And if you are experiencing mild anxiety about going back to work, chances are you are experiencing what psychologists are classifying as ‘re – entry’ anxiety. At the beginning of the pandemic, you may have experienced similar anxiety when you were suddenly told to stay and work from home to protect the NHS. This new way of working took us a while to adjust to so it’s entirely reasonable to suggest that some may experience similar feelings as we prepare to go the other way and return to our pre – pandemic lives and routines.
Last March we were plunged into a UK – wide lockdown which understandably took us a while as a nation to adjust to. After such a significant period of disruption to our lives and daily routines, many of us have been hibernating within the comfort of our homes (for the most part) for just over a year now. For many this will have been a safe space and the thought of leaving one’s comfort zone may awaken feelings of uneasiness and doubt. Such feelings can occasionally lead to ‘what if’ – type worries and self – questioning which can further promote discomfort and perhaps anxiety. If you are experiencing such feelings, it is important to notice them and learn to respond to them in a healthy way. Afterall, they are entirely normal. I would invite you to be curious about these feelings or perhaps think about what else they are stirring up for you? What actions are they encouraging you to take, or what are they making you aware of?
“If we know and understand our emotions, we get to know ourselves much more deeply, which means we can better care for ourselves in a whole-of-person way. We can act in ways that are more beneficial to us and become more able to lead purposeful and positive lives attune with who we really are” – Aaron Kelly
We are all uniquely diverse and it may take longer for some others to readjust to their pre – established working routines. This gradual return to pre – pandemic life is a new experience for everyone and if you’re experiencing ‘re-entry anxiety’ then remember to take each day as it comes and at a pace that is comfortable for you. When your office reopens, you may want to have a conversation with your line manager about the possibility of slowly building up your attendance back to work. This gradual exposure may help you gently reconnect with a healthy working routine.
Upon returning to work it may be helpful to stay connected with your colleagues by setting up a regular time to check – in with others? If you feel comfortable you could perhaps share how you were affected over the last year and how you are dealing with the re-acclimatation to the working environment. Listen carefully to other colleagues and remember to look out for each other. You may also want to share some ideas for stress busting with colleagues or that ‘award-winning’ banana bread recipe!
As the next month’s unfold and we prepare ourselves to live through the next instalment of the ‘COVID series’ I will be taking some time to review my previous routines and obsolete habits. Lockdown has provoked me to think about how I spend my time and has given me permission to avoid the things that I simply endured rather enjoyed before lockdown. It has been such a relief to stop doing these things. To those of you who may feel uneasy about the return to the workplace, may I gently encourage you to rethink how you may make the most of your time moving forward and give yourself permission to stop doing those things that no longer bring you any joy. I would also encourage you to rethink your existing boundaries and remember to be kind to yourself even in those stressful times.
If your anxiety or stress about the easing of restrictions is affecting your daily life, you may want to speak to professional counsellor or psychotherapist. They may be able to help you explore your feelings, acknowledge and accept them and support you find way to cope that work for you.