With the arrival of the coronavirus this past spring, many Americans found their daily work routines suddenly disrupted. For those in recovery, the abrupt shift to working from home added additional challenges to this unique period in history. Anxiety and depression rates inched up right alongside the increasing COVID-19 case counts, only compounding the distress individuals in recovery were facing.
Slowly but surely, the lockdowns have eased and allowed many of us to get back to a conventional workplace setting. With hopes that the worst is behind us, we take tentative steps toward resuming our usual daily work routines, although not without some trepidation. Working during a pandemic provides its own set of unique risks and challenges that will be actively addressed in the coming weeks and months. Let’s explore some ways to gently return to the workplace while protecting our mental health and recovery.
5 Tips for Returning to Work During COVID-19
While working from home may have provided a certain measure of safety while the nation came to grips with the pandemic, it wasn’t always an ideal situation. Many people grew tired of the disruption from regular life and looked forward to returning to the daily grind, although with reservations. After all, the virus is still out there and it is critical that as we return to our jobs we continue to practice good common sense.
Consider these 5 helpful ideas for rejoining your colleagues, or starting a new job, that protect mental health during the pandemic:
- Manage expectations. As much as we all want this to be over, it just isn’t yet. Go back to work with realistic expectations. Better to expect things to be a bit different than to have idealized expectations of your former workplace culture.
- Acknowledge signs of anxiety. If you do sense you are feeling anxious and stressed about being out among people again in an enclosed workspace, take steps to reduce worry. Ease your mind by asking your employer what precautions they are taking to keep the staff and workplace safe.
- Control your stress response. Access stress-reducing methods as needed. These may include practicing focused breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation during the workday when you feel anxiety creeping in. Managing stress on a daily basis is key to a successful return to work.
- Limit your exposure to negative news. If your colleague wants to chat your ear off sharing all the latest negative data or news reports about COVID-19, gently tell him or her that you prefer to focus your energy on your job and on positive thoughts.
- Embrace the new routine. The “new normal” is here to stay for at least awhile. Instead of lamenting the required changes at work, why not embrace the new daily routine—temperature checks, masks, hand sanitizer, physical distancing—and set a good example for others.
Above all, pay heed to your mental health during this transition back to work. If you find that you are experiencing signs of emotional distress, do not hesitate to seek out the guidance and support of a therapist to help you cope. Acknowledging stress during an event like the pandemic, and seeking help, is not a sign of weakness but, on the contrary, is a sign of courage as you take the necessary steps to protect your recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.