Five Tips To Manage Your Anxiety About Going Back To Work

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re experiencing nervousness about returning to work after the COVID-19 pandemic or an extended absence, you aren’t alone. Understanding the root causes and contributing factors to this nervousness may empower you to move forward more confidently. You can also employ several strategies that may reduce thoughts of doubt or incapacity as you return to your regular work schedule.

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What causes anxiety about returning to work?

If you are being asked to return to work after a difficult absence or the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience nervousness. These nerves could be due to internalized self-doubt, uncertainty, or the dynamic thrill of taking on a “new” or unusual routine compared to your regular daily patterns.

When asked to return to work after an extended absence, you may perceive a sense of being accustomed to isolation and a lack of social interaction, potentially causing overwhelm. Returning to in-person meetings, water cooler socialization, and office politics can all contribute to nervousness, especially if one is living with social anxiety disorder. Rates of social anxiety disorder have increased by over 25% since the COVID-19 pandemic, causing more individuals to experience significant fear in social situations. 

Changes in your daily routine or financial situation can also impact feelings of nervousness around returning to work. For example, there may be lingering questions about the change from the flexibility of working at home to the structure of working at the office. You might also be worried about changes that will be implemented since the last time your company met in person. 

Tips for managing anxiety about returning to work

No matter the cause of your nervousness, you can implement several strategic measures to potentially reduce your nervousness about the upcoming change, including the following. 

Talk to a therapist

Therapy can be an effective way to reduce anxiety. Therapy has been proven to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders like social anxiety disorder or general anxiety disorder and the underlying thought processes of these conditions. 

There are a range of different therapy methods that could be beneficial to you as you work to cope with anxiety. For example, a therapist can help you learn relaxation techniques to cope with distressing symptoms as they arise. You may also work to examine and address negative thoughts.

Partake in self-care 

Taking care of yourself is one way to reduce anxiety and improve mental health. Self-care can look different for everyone. However, tasks like sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet are places to start. 

Worries may sometimes get in the way of self-care. For example, if you are concerned about returning to work, you may not be as motivated to follow your exercise and nutrition routine due to stress or distraction. If you are experiencing this type of cyclical struggle, add a fruit or vegetable to each meal or set a sleep schedule to follow every night. 

Taking care of yourself also means partaking in hobbies. If you don’t know what you enjoy doing, you might take a few minutes each day to learn a new hobby or spend time with your family. Doing so can add joy and meaning to your life and help you build resilience to tackle your fears about returning to work.

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Talk to your boss

Some concerns people have about returning to work can be related to the changes they might face and the possible stress that may occur due to their return. Not knowing what changes will be made in the office post-pandemic can be scary. However, you may be able to address this fear by speaking to your employer.

If you are worried about having different responsibilities than those you’ve had remotely or before the pandemic, consider asking your boss what you can expect upon your return. If you are worried about new guidelines or safety precautions, you may choose to let them know of your concerns and request an accommodation. 

Adopt coping techniques 

Coping and relaxation techniques can be valuable assets for difficult moments throughout the course of your life. They can contribute to resiliency and help you experience a higher quality of life, no matter your current situation. One method to try relies on one of the most common human experiences—breathing. 

Breathing can be helpful because it can be done anywhere. To begin, try breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for three seconds, and then slowly letting the breath out for six seconds. You may notice your mind and body relax after partaking in this exercise a few times. 

You can also try positivity exercises. Affirmations are one way to cope with anxiety. To practice them, tell yourself positive statements about the future that make you hopeful. You may also benefit from keeping a journal to write down positive aspects of your days or what you are grateful for.

Organize your life

The concept of organizing your life might be overwhelming. However, start small with the organization of your workspace. Studies show that organizing your desk or work area can reduce symptoms of stress. Whether in the office or working from home for an entire year, you might benefit from cleaning up your space. 

You can also use the opportunity of being physically at work to decorate and personalize your desk or workspace. Decorations like trinkets or pictures from special moments can bring joy to your workday and remind you why you work. 

Some people invest in stress-reduction items for their workspace or home. A plant on your desk can reduce your stress and anxiety. In addition, desk organizers can give your desk a tidier appearance, positively impacting your mental health. 

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How online therapy can help 

Returning to work can induce nervousness or self-doubt, especially after the events of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes and transitions can be challenging beyond the present-day difficulties of the modern workplace, which can result in individuals feeling too overwhelmed to seek professional help via in-person therapeutic formats. 

For some, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp can be as effective as in-person therapy and offer extra convenience and cost-effectiveness. With an online platform, you can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions with your therapist and find flexible scheduling options. 

With the rise of online therapy over the past few years, some people may wonder if it is as effective as in-person therapeutic options. Recent research suggests that online therapy can be just as effective as traditional in-person therapeutic formats, with some citing more convenience and cost-effectiveness than in-person therapy.  

Takeaway

It can be common to experience feelings of nervousness regarding a potential return to work, especially in the case of extended absence. However, there are strategies you can use to attempt to experience a higher quality of life and confidence in the workplace. Therapy, self-care, and organizational methods may all be helpful aids as you navigate your feelings about your return.
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