Managing back-to-work anxiety

If you’ve been asked to return to the office again in recent weeks you may be having some mixed feelings and you are not alone if you’re feeling apprehensive. Whether it’s because we’re anxious about being around so many people or just struggling to get back into the swing of things, it can be tough to focus and stay calm. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips and tricks for managing your anxiety during this time. We hope they help you settle back in and thrive with a new routine.

Shift your perspective

Start by acknowledging how you’re feeling. It can be tough to admit that we’re struggling, but it’s the first step in getting better. Once you recognise that you are experiencing anxiety, you can start working on ways to address it.

Find the good things about returning to work. Many studies have been done on gratitude practices and the body of research supports an association between expressing gratitude and an overall sense of well being.

It’s human to focus on the negatives, we have a negative bias so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been focusing on all the downsides of returning to the office but simple shifts in your perception with a focus on gratitude for the positives can have a positive impact on your daily life.

For example;

  • How could you use your daily commute – read a book, listen to a podcast or audiobook?
  • Celebrate that there is now a clear separation between your work and home life – leave work at the office when you leave for the day.
  • Did you miss the social side of the office? Maybe you’re looking forward to a lunchtime chat or being able to bounce ideas off team members in person rather than online?

See if you can negotiate a flexible working pattern.

Talk to your supervisor about any changes you’d like to see in your work schedule. If returning back to a full work schedule is proving too difficult, ask if there are any options for working from home or flexible hours to avoid the worst of the rush hour?

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers so if you’re looking for a better work-life balance then it could be time to have a chat with your HR department about what options could be available to you. With so many companies now used to working from home over the past couple of years, flexible working is now very accessible than ever before.

Visit the .Gov website for more details on Flexible working in the UK.

Schedule in some self-care

It can be really tough to jump back into work mode after being out of the office for an extended period of time. Try to take it slow and give yourself some space to adjust. Dedicate some time each day to do something that relaxes you, whether that’s reading, meditation or going for a walk. Make sure it’s scheduled so that it actually happens!

This time out will help reduce your stress levels and make transitioning back to work a little bit easier. If it can be straight after work, before moving into your home life then it will help to decompress from the workday and create a separation of your work and home roles.

Move your body daily

When we’re feeling anxious we may not feel motivated to exercise or do anything more than we absolutely have to. However, exercise is a great way to combat anxiety. Not only does it release endorphins that make us feel good, but it can also help clear our minds.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of movement each day, whether that’s going for a walk, a swim, doing some yoga or hitting the gym. Most importantly find what works for you – an activity you enjoy and look forward to is going to be the easiest to make the time for and create a habit that you stick to!

Talk to someone

If you’re struggling with managing your anxiety during this time, talking to someone can be really helpful. Whether that’s a friend, family member or therapist, sharing how you’re feeling can help lessen the burden.

Check if your work has a dedicated Mental Health First Aider or any other mental health support such as counselling or support under a private medical insurance policy. There is always support available, through your GP, mental health charities such as Mind or The Samaritans. There’s no need to struggle alone.

Sometimes talking about our anxieties helps them feel more manageable and less overwhelming but if the feelings are persistent and long-lasting do reach out to your GP for support.

Eat your way to calm

Food can have a huge impact on our mood and anxiety levels. Try to avoid caffeine and foods and drinks high in sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.

Eating a diet full of whole foods and all of the nutrients your body needs will be the best way to support both your mood and overall health.

Some key nutrients to include for managing anxiety are:

Selenium.

Selenium is thought to improve mood due to its anti-inflammatory nature (inflammation can increase with prolonged anxiety).

Try including food rich in selenium such as brazil nuts, fish and seafood, organ meats, eggs and dairy products.

Omega-3

Omega-3 is a fatty acid that has been linked with cognitive function and mental health. A report on findings around the link between omega-3 and mental health found that people who took high doses of omega-3s (up to 2,000 mg a day) seemed to have the most reduction in anxiety symptoms in their test subjects.

Foods that provide omega-3 include salmon, nuts and seeds and seed oils like flaxseed.

Vitamin D

Researchers are increasingly linking vitamin D deficiency to mood disorders including anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during winter.

It can be harder to get enough Vitamin D naturally during winter months so it’s even more important to ensure it is included in your diet or supplementation.

Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon), red meat and organ meats, eggs (in the yolks) along with fortified cereals and milks.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that about 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood and often this can start off symptomless or have symptoms that are easily missed.

A Vitamin D Home Test Kit is a simple way to check on your levels from home to empower you to make any dietary or supplementation changes you need to keep your levels where they need to be.

For more information on including Vitamin D in your diet, see our related blog:
How to increase your vitamin D intake through diet

Finally…

Returning back to work after taking some time off due to covid can be difficult. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions like uncertainty, stress or even sadness but there are ways we can try and manage them so that it doesn’t have a negative impact n our work or home lives.