At the beginning of the pandemic, it is likely that we felt anxious as we transitioned from working in traditional office spaces to working out of our homes. This change took some getting used to, but after a while; we gradually acclimated to our new remote work environments. Now, many of us are faced with another change–re-acclimating to in-person work and social activities. This adjustment can feel overwhelming as we are not only considering its impact on us, but we are concerned about our families as well. Here are some ways to boost self-confidence and dispel anxiety as we navigate our re-entry to the workplace.
Identify your specific concerns.
Try to isolate your specific challenges instead of letting your worries stack up; addressing each one separately often helps make them more manageable.
What specifically are your concerns? Are they only about health and safety? Are you worried about whether to wear a mask to work, or how close to sit when interacting with others? Are you hassled that you can’t wear comfortable everyday clothing, and need to work in more formal attire? What about your kids at school or your parent’s health—does these issues weigh heavily on your mind?
Knowing your concerns clearly will help you to voice them at team meetings or bring them to individuals with the power to make adjustments that you may need.
Think ahead of time about the scenarios you might encounter when talking with your boss. Reflect specifically about your boundaries−what you feel comfortable with and what you need to say ‘no’ to. This “pre-rehearsal” can help you clearly communicate your needs.
Know your distress signals.
Become aware of your own signals of anxiety. Do you tend to have racing thoughts, headaches, stomach issues, trouble sleeping? Or you more prone to snap at people or isolate yourself?
One way to help self-manage this anxiety is by practicing self-compassion. Remember that your feelings are universal and normal; most people in your company and community are currently experiencing an uneasiness about the future. Now is the time to be kind to yourself and others.Additionally, breathing exercises are a good way to help you calm down in moments of tension and distress. Remember that your mind follows your breath, so the best thing to divert your attention away from anxiety is by taking a moment to focus on your breathing (deeper and slower than you are breathing now!)
Respond, not react.
Recognize that when you are anxious, you may overthink about negative outcomes you fear will happen, rather than on the positive possibilities of what could happen. If you do this, it allows anxiety to ‘take over’ your body and you filter situations with the worst-case scenarios thinking.
With awareness, you can train yourself to focus on what you want to show up, rather than what you fear will happen.
Leverage your learnings.
We have all been just been through very disruption times, but we’ve learned a lot about ourselves. What are your non-negotiables? What is a must-have in your new schedules of days at the office? Maybe it’s your morning routine of ‘reflection’ or a 10 minute walk in the afternoon. It could be finding a space away from cubicle to take a mini-recharge and stay motivated.
What behaviors would you like to strengthen? What behaviors would you like to shed?
Feel empowered by using re-entry into the workplace as an opportunity to reinforce and recommit to new ways of acting.
Trust yourself to speak up if needed.
When situations surface that create fear or worry about your health and safety, realize that you are in control. Talk to your manager, or your teammates if necessary—this is the time to have those courageous conversations. Know you are capable of taking care of yourself.
I experienced some of these lessons recently on a small-ish plane flying back to my hometown. Because the person across the aisle was barely wearing a mask, I found myself feeling unsafe for my physical health. I started to get angry at that person and ascribe a whole story why they were jeopardizing my health. For a few minutes I felt taken over and had a hard time focusing on anything else. I started to breathe more deeply, and I focused on who I wanted to show up as rather than on what this person was ‘doing to me’ or the catastrophe that would befall me. I focused on the efforts that I was making to control my own safety and how I believed those measures were sufficient to keep me healthy. Then I could feel my body relax, and I was able to think clearly enough to write this article!
This article is the opinion of the author.