The COVID-19 pandemic brought much chaos and sadness to the entire world, along with much change. Shutting down the country impacted jobs in so many ways. A good amount of people had to abruptly adjust to a work-from-home situation, which included setting up their laptop on a kitchen table or putting together a makeshift desk area. Slowly but surely, it wasn't so difficult to get used to. After all, working in your PJs, being able to get meals started early, and throwing the laundry in between meetings had its perks. But now that companies are having their employees leave their home set-up and return to "normal," we've come up with easy ways to reduce stress when going back to the office.
We spoke with Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health for ways to ease back into work life post-COVID. Dr. Patel-Dunn suggests, "Ideally, having a sense of control over which days you go into the office (if your company observes a hybrid model) can help you develop a set routine which is supportive for mental health." She adds, "Another tactic that can help reduce stress is avoiding the rush hour commute if you're able to. For example, if your company allows you to do some work from home in the morning and go into the office a little later—or go in early and leave early—this can help alleviate the stress associated with having to manage a traditional commute."
Some individuals may be returning to a typical 8-plus hour grind that requires you to physically be back in the office environment. Perhaps you've done that regimen for years, but now that you're used to rolling out of your comfy bed and onto your comfy couch set-up, the long day can feel a bit overwhelming. Take a deep breath, and listen to Dr. Patel-Dunn's positive advice. "Embrace your commute. There is a benefit to the commute that many of us have missed, which is the forced downtime it provides to read or listen to music or a podcast, walk to a train station with a colleague, grab a coffee, etc. That downtime to decompress from your day, or prepare yourself for what's ahead of you, can be a silver lining that you may have forgotten that you enjoyed." So, look at the glass as half full!
If you can't get past it and are still uneasy about getting back into the new (well, actually old) routine, you're not alone. Dr. Patel-Dunn tells us, "I'm often asked how someone would know if it's time to schedule an appointment with a therapist. My answer is if that is crossing your mind, it's time to schedule your appointment." In some instances, you may feel blah and not even know why. Dr. Patel-Dunn explains, "Other indications that you might benefit from speaking with a mental health professional are if you're experiencing social anxiety, irritability, or other behaviors that are out of character for you."
Reach out, and get the help you need to address your feelings. In the meantime, remember back to the beginning of the pandemic. So many people at the time were skeptical and uncertain about leaving their office environment and co-workers to work from home. That situation ended up being a really positive one. Remember that change can be good, so take things one step at a time!
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