Life After Lockdown: Returning to work in the new normal
As the country continues to ease itself into the ‘new normal’ with the reopening of shops, bars and restaurants, companies large and small across the BID are also looking to begin welcoming their staff back to the office space with a phased return. While this may be welcome news for some who may have found it difficult in adjusting to working from home, leading West Midlands mental health charity, Living Well UK is here to help those who may be experiencing concerns or worries around the transition.
Qualified in integrative psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, Holly Beedon, clinical lead at Living Well UK, has pulled together her five top tips that could help employees struggling to adapt to returning to work.
Identifying key emotions that you are feeling can be a key tool to help you adjust to the idea of returning to work. You might be experiencing feelings that you haven’t come across before, so you must work to identify them. Holly explains:
“Many of us will be experiencing a mix of feelings about returning to work that can be caused for several reasons, including worrying about your journey if you take public transport, or how different your day in your workplace may be due to social distancing.
“Emotions such as feeling increasingly stressed, worried, becoming irritable, snappy with others, getting an upset stomach, feeling exhausted, self-conscious or overthinking could all be present, but don’t forget that this is another big change for many of us.”
There are a number of simple steps that you can take to learn to deal with these emotions so that they don’t overtake your day. Holly explains:
“During this time, it’s so important to make sure that you are taking the necessary steps to deal with any emotions that you may be feeling. One of my top tips is incorporating ‘worry time’ to your day by simply jotting down any concerns you may have, what’s causing them and if there’s anything that you can do about them. Problem-solving and setting yourself small goals to achieve throughout the day could also help you tackle any hurdles that you’re facing.
“Equally, taking time to sit down with your family or a friend to discuss how your feeling will help declutter your mind if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Living Well UK also has a free crisis line for both key workers and the general public, alongside a live chat on the website where one of the team will always be available to talk and provide support.
“Something as simple as trying a range of relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, guided meditation sessions, or even heading out for a walk, run or cleaning your house can all lead to your feeling calmer, therefore having a positive effect on your mental health. These could be great to carry out before you go to bed, so try swapping them out for screen time that you might spend looking at the news.”
When dealing with negative thoughts, we’re often tempted to ignore our emotions and turn to other things that we may see as a solution. However, Holly explains that there are a number of things that we should be actively avoiding to not exacerbate our feelings. She suggests:
“While it might seem more tempting to spend time scrolling through your phone or stay in bed or on the sofa all day, keeping active will ensure that you stray away from things that might further impact how you’re feeling. Eating too much junk food, drinking too much alcohol or isolating yourself from others, can all heavily influence your mood, so be mindful if you find yourself falling into this routine.”
Experiencing the ‘Sunday night feeling’ is something that we’ve all come across, but when it comes to returning to work in new circumstances, this can feel more and more difficult to shift. However, Holly explains that there are a number of things that you can do to minimise the likelihood this dread rearing its head.
“I cannot express how important it is to practice self-care, especially when you feel elements of Sunday night dread creeping in. There are a number of tactics and methods that you can carry out to keep you calm, from running yourself a hot bath, practicing yoga or simply a short meditation session. Equally, allowing yourself time to doing something that you enjoy such as watching your favourite TV show or baking are great ways to take some time out for situations that may be causing you stress.
“If you’re preparing, make sure you’re fully organised and head to bed at a decent time: that way you can go to bed with a clear mind knowing that everything is ready for the morning. Give yourself something to look forward to, like a Monday treat. Pack a tasty lunch or have a nice dinner, or maybe have a treat like a cake or chocolate to enjoy after work.”
As well as preparing to return to work, some people may find themselves experiencing feelings still surrounded by the pandemic and its after-effects, this could involve concerns of worry to contracting to virus and spreading it to their family or passing it on to colleagues.
“While cases in England may be continuing to drop, you might head back to work experiencing certain emotions around catching or spreading the virus, therefore passing it on to your family, partners etc. Of course, there are ways that you can prevent this from happening, such as wearing a face covering on public transport, at your workplace, carrying hand gel, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands regularly.
“It’s important that you take the time to talk to your colleagues to explain any emotions that are effecting your mental health, this many mean finding alternative ways to grab a hold of any concerns or worries by controlling the amount of time that you’re spending in the office, such as returning to work at a slower pace with reduced days and hours, or continuing to work from home as much as possible.”
Last, but not least, while many of us might find the thought of asking for help daunting, Holly explains that it’s important to know that there are mental health resources available to everyone, no matter how small the problem may be. She says:
“If your symptoms are showing no signs of easing and are becoming more persistent, this may be the right time to consider seeking some additional support. While this can feel intimidating and a big leap, there are many paths you can take when it comes to finding the best form of help, from CBT sessions to simply talking your problems through with a professional on the Living Well UK chat line or crisis line, who will be able to teach you necessary coping methods to learn to safely manage your emotions.
“If you feel like you’re struggling. If you feel like immediately reaching out to a professional is too much, you could begin with talking through how you’re feeling with a friend or family member.”
Living Well UK’s dedicated numbers are live: for the key-worker support line, call 0121 663 1217 and for general support call 0121 262 3555.
For more information on Living Well UK and its services, visit https://livingwellconsortium.com/.