An Anxious Return: Heading Back to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Rice Psychology
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An Anxious Return: Heading Back to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.

The company I work for reopened last week. I was excited at first to finally get out of the house and earn a paycheck again, but seeing the crowded hallways, closed office doors, and multiple face-to-face meetings are making me very anxious. At home, I was mindful of keeping things especially clean due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When going out to get groceries, I was even more careful. But now at work, with people hovering over me so much and participating in one meeting after the next, my anxiety is getting out of control! People seem to have such different perspectives on the current level of risk and varying levels of need to wear masks and maintain social distancing! Is there anything I can do to make myself feel better?

If you’ve been tuning in to the news lately, you’ll know that many states are “reopening” and trying to return to normality following weeks-long stay-at-home orders. This means that millions of people have begun to steadily return to their jobs. And we know that many people are unsure if doing so is safe for their physical and mental well-being. So, while many people are overwhelmed with the sense of relief to be getting out and returning to work, others are feeling anxiety, ambivalence, and even confusion. If you or someone you know is finding reopening to be a difficult situation, we want to help you understand and cope with it in a healthy manner.

Life at the Workplace…Again

According to Dr. K. Luan Phan, head of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, “Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it’s sustained over such a long period of time.” It’s only natural that, as workers return to their on-site jobs, anxiety, worry, and maybe even anger can occur.

As long-standing research has shown through the decades, these emotions can often interfere with our overall quality of life. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale produced in 1967, stress can have a significant impact on our health and ability to stay healthy over time. Uncertainty and anxiety can do the same to our work productivity. They can make it difficult to focus and make our minds prone to slip-ups, which could be especially hazardous, or at least problematic, depending on your line of work. As these concerns mount, it’s important to remember that the best thing you can do is continue being proactive to protect and bolster your physical and mental health.

Establishing Good Practices

While at work, we urge you to continue using the precautions recommended by health experts that you’ve been using at home and in public. This means practicing social distancing, using face coverings, disinfecting your immediate area and high-touch surfaces, keeping hands away from your face, and washing your hands regularly.

Less talked about but also extremely important factors to help manage anxiety, stress, or anger include:

  • Avoiding internalizing – Whether you’re experiencing anger, sadness, or something else, it’s important to notice your feelings about yourself, and even better, about others. Expressing what you feel in a healthy manner (with words, in writing, and calmly without verbally or physically attacking anyone else) is better than keeping your feelings buried inside or pretending you’re fine when you’re actually quite bothered.
  • Welcoming help – If a family member, friend, or coworker offers to help you feel more at ease, allow them to. It could be something as simple as them lending you an ear to vent your frustrations or taking care of something in the office that’s making you feel overwhelmed.
  • Reaching out to others – Keep in touch with friends and family in order to relax, catch up, and maybe get a few laughs if your anxiety is acting up at work. Of course, only do this before or after work or on a break.
  • Prioritizing your body and mind – Your health is extremely important, especially now. Make sure to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and do things you love to stay emotionally well like reading, walking your dog, knitting, or something else that keeps you productive. If you’ve been meaning to include meditation or a mindfulness practice in your life, this may be the ideal time to start!

As Always, We’re Here for You

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented issues into the foreground of our lives, but at Rice Psychology Group, we want to remind you that you’re not alone. If you’re having difficulty processing your emotions or simply feel like you’re not yourself, then our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa are here to help. Get in touch today for more information on what we can do for you.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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