Returning to the office after the pandemic – Or facing ‘office anxiety? – consider these 7 tips to avoid anxiety
The pandemic has – among many other things – created anxiety among many across the world. In the US, most Americans were experiencing anxiety according to a report last year at Economist/YouGov poll. But that is something that goes beyond ‘ordinary’ work-related stress which for many Western countries is significant.
So how can those with anxiety actually handle the stress during these difficult times during the pandemic – and particularly as people are continuing to return to the office.
f you’re feeling anxious or stressed at your job right now, you’re certainly not alone. Some 64% of Americans said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about personally experiencing the novel coronavirus, according to a March Economist/YouGov poll. Add to that having to completely change your routine, adapt to working from home, and limited social interactions, and you’re likely to be feeling at least a little off on the job.
In fact, even without the added pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, work-related stress is a major issue for Americans. Some 68% of people in the US report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress on the job, according to a 2018 survey from tech company Wrike.
Navigating the workplace can be even more difficult for individuals dealing with anxiety, which along with depression is a leading cause of disability, research shows.
So, what can someone with anxiety do to help themselves be more comfortable while working from home during this difficult time?
1. The most important thing is not to change the way you live.
People with anxiety should avoid limiting themselves, according to Marla Deibler, licensed clinical psychologist and the founder of the Centre for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia.
“Those who struggle with anxiety should strive to fully participate in life, despite their bodily experience of anxiety – anywhere at anytime,” Deibler says. “Being willing to fully experience themselves and their private experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, etc.) and being accepting of that range of experiences, while continuing to act on with what is important to them, will lead them to in the direction of ceasing the struggle with anxiety.”
While this may sound hard to do during social isolation, experts say activities like journaling, yoga, and meditation can help one feel fully present in the moment.
Deibler provided Business Insider with some other crucial tips – from symptom management strategies to changing your entire mindset – for handling anxiety in your job.
2. Don’t suppress your anxiety.
Stifling your feelings is counterproductive.
“Everyone experiences anxiety,” Deibler says. “It is a normal response to stress. Let it in when it shows up. Practice acceptance. Rather than trying to push it away (which tends to be futile, resulting in feeling more overwhelmed and less in control), make room for anxiety. It is showing up to try to bring your attention to something.”
Deibler says that, by allowing space for some anxiety while you’re working, you’ll render it less bothersome in the long run.
3. Be mindful.
Check in with yourself once in a while.
“Examine anxiety with curiosity when it shows up, rather than rejecting it,” Deibler says. “What do you notice when it shows up? What are you thinking and feeling?”
4. Invite anxiety along for the ride.
Confront your anxieties head on. If you’re nervous about public speaking, take an online class to improve your skills. If you’re afraid of talking to your coworkers, try to strike up a conversation via video chat.
“Push yourself to enter situations that lead to anxiety in order to demonstrate to yourself that you can persevere and succeed despite anxiety,” Deibler says. “Exposing yourself to anxiety-provoking situations, rather than avoiding them, helps to change your relationship to anxiety and increase your confidence in these situations.”
5. Practice self-care.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
“Attend to your own feelings and healthy lifestyle practices: good nutrition, sleep, and exercise are important to well-being, resilience, and healthy stress management,” Deibler says.
6. Remind yourself that your mind is not always the best advisor.
Sometimes, you can’t trust yourself.
“Our minds like to constantly tell stories, analyse, judge, give advice, and criticise,” Deibler says. “Sometimes these thoughts are supremely unhelpful to us. Observe what your mind does. Notice the thoughts. Note that they are not objective truths. You get to decide whether the thoughts are worthy of your attention.”
7. Take a break.
Deibler notes that changing your pace or scenery from time to time actually helps with managing anxiety. Find ways to do this while social distancing: maybe bask in the sun if you have a backyard, or go for a stroll in a nearby park. When taking precautions, the risks of spreading or contracting the virus in open air are slim, experts say.
8. Try progressive muscle relaxation.
Engage in exercises that relax your body and set your mind at ease.
“Diaphragmatic breathing or other relaxation inducing practice (e.g., mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery exercises, tai chi, yoga) can reduce stress by helping to encourage the relaxation response.”
9. Lay off the coffee.
When it comes to managing anxiety, that latte in the morning is not your friend.
“Keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, as it can increase heart rate and physiological symptoms of anxiety,” Deibler says.
10. Stay connected.
You can get by with a little help from your friends.
“Social support is vital to managing stress,” Deibler says. “Maintain connections to family and friends. Talking with others can do a world of good.”
11. Seek professional help.
Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone.
“Sometimes anxiety can be difficult to manage without professional help,” Deibler says. “A clinical psychologist who provides cognitive behavioural therapy can assist individuals in learning to better understand anxiety and change their relationship to their anxious thoughts and feelings. Concerned coworkers and employers might also choose to express their concern for a colleague and help to normalize the experience and encourage the individual to seek help.”
There has been an increase in the number of healthcare professionals providing telemedicine services, so check with your job or insurance provider to see what your options are for care during quarantine.
Avoiding anxiety is simple enough once the key steps are identified – and recognized.