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Coronavirus: How to beat back to work anxiety

Practical tips to help you manage back to work anxiety

Blog by: Anne Devlin Psychotherapist and Director of City Therapy

While a break from work is essential for our mental health the extended break for some due to Covid-19 is bringing up anxiety and negative feelings at the thoughts of returning to work. The ‘working-from-home’ piece has brought its own issues but slowly people have started to adapt. Inside of this adaptation people are experiencing the positive side of working from home namely, no commute, being able to be around their family more, being able to create a less stressful working environment and being less stressed by colleague interactions. Getting back into a routine can be hard to imagine and negative thoughts about your ability and skills can trigger self-doubt and impact self-confidence levels.

So, how might you handle your back to work anxiety?

You can make your transition back to work a little easier by knowing there are steps you can take;

Think about the source of your worry

It is important to fully understand where your worry is coming from so that you can be clear about potential solutions. Maybe your anxiety is coming from, the commute, your workload, workplace relationships or some other personal issue. Try to identify the source of your anxiety in relation to your work

Speak to your boss

Your employer/boss will most likely be expecting conversations like this and if they are not that is ok. Because you have identified your issues then you can politely bring this issue up with your boss and together come up with a solution.

Commuting- you may be able to enquire after flexible working hours.

Reduce number of days in the office- you have shown you can work from home, this might be an option going forward.

Workload- try not to take on more than you can manage and have a conversation with your boss if you are feeling overwhelmed. Learn to say No!


No being prepared can bring up anxieties because it increases the level of uncertainty in a potential experience. Set up a similar routine, one that somewhat mirrors what you had when you were working. You had your day mapped out in work, how might that look if you were to introduce some of those elements now ie breakfast, lunch, dinner at certain times. Preparing meals for a few days, as you may have done when in work. If you used to walk to work or go out for a walk at lunch, then start to do this again. If you had certain things to do on certain days, then try to mirror this in your working week. Switch off the computer at the same time you would have when you were working in an office. Planning and creating structure now can help things feel more manageable. Making to-do lists and sticking to a routine can help your transition.

Be kind and realistic

You have been away from this environment for a number of weeks, so accept that there is a re-adjustment period, in the same way you had to adjust when you had to work from home. Set yourself tasks but make them realistic, break the must-do into smaller chunks and try to succeed with mini victories on the vital things, you can increase your workload as the days and weeks go on. Just be realistic in what you can get done. You may have been getting more done at home as you had less of a commute but is it realistic to do the same now?

Stay in this moment

Many people project themselves into the future and worry about what may or may not happen. Being present and being aware of your surroundings can improve your mental wellbeing. Also, if when you return to work you are feeling anxious then you can practice some deep breathing, try using the 4-4-4-4 method inhale for 4 count, hold for 4 count, exhale for 4 count, hold for 4 count…… repeat 5-10 times. Or try the 54321 grounding technique 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

These techniques can help you bring yourself into the moment and help you to feel more relaxed. Also make time for exercise in your day

Make time for nice things

Arrange to catch up with friends after work for a coffee. You may have been playing games or catching up with friends over Zoom, there is no reason why you can’t still do this. Make sure you take breaks in your work day and arrange to meet your colleagues on your break, you can tell them about your worries, they may even be feeling the same.

Plan to do something fun at the weekend or during the week, this can reduce the sense of dread.

Focus on the things you like

Write down or think about the elements of your work that you did enjoy – problem solving, assisting others, reaching targets or being part of a team. Work is only one part of who you are as a person, it does not define you. Focus on the things at enrich your life like hobbies, family and friends remember how they add to your experience of the world

Seek Professional Help

If you are struggling and feeling it really difficult to manage your thoughts or feelings then seek professional help. Talking to a therapist can help you learn new skills and explore how you are feeling. Staying on top of your mental health is a priority.

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