Returning to work after a leave of absence in the best of times can be anxiety inducing.
I feel anxious returning to work after vacationing for a week knowing I’ll have to catch up on so much.
Now many people who have been off for months will be returning to work at the same time all with the added pressures of this looming underlying uncertainty for second waves of a global virus. This is already generating many questions around our physical health and safety, but how do we protect our mental health and safety in returning? Some research has come out from other countries who have returned before us, which is helping us understand how we can make this transition better.
- Be informed about new safety measures at your workplace. All workplaces reopening will be required to have new safety measures in place to ensure worker safety. They will also be required to inform employees about the new safety measures and protocols. Be informed by reading these company memos, attending online meetings, or reaching out to your supervisor before returning to work. Mental preparedness is one of the best ways to reduce our risk of developing mental illnesses in crisis situations.
- Expect continual changes over the next few months. Managing our worry by managing our expectations can help us mentally. Most of us have likely been doing this for a while now, trying not to get too situated recognizing that this is temporary. Continue this in your work environment by first of all recognizing that you will not be going back to your normal environment. Things will still be conducted much differently for an unknown length of time.
- Focus on the positives. Think about the good parts about returning to your job. Getting to see your favorite colleagues again, your favorite customers, getting your morning routine back, etc. Write these down as reminders if it helps.
- Have even better hygiene. A recent study from China (Tan et. Al, 2020) where workers were returning showed a decrease in their mental health was correlated with the more physical health practices they practiced. The more they washed their hands, disinfected their workspace, and wore face masks in their workplace, the lower their levels of stress and anxiety were.
- Practice your routine before returning to work. Spend a couple days before returning to work getting up at your usual time, exercising, making breakfast, showering, whatever your previous before work routine was. It will be less of a shock on the first day.
Just remember it’s ok to feel anxious about returning to work during this time, but if we take some of these steps it should help us reduce our anxiety. And as always, if you feel this is beyond healthy anxiety, seek out a professional to help you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christina Fuda is the Mental Health First Aid Coordinator at Ontario Shores. During the pandemic, she will be blogging regularly around the impact of COVID-19 from a mental health perspective. Send your suggestions for topics to @email.