5 Tips To Help Manage Your Anxiety About Going Back To Work

Updated January 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re experiencing feelings of nervousness about returning to work after the 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. There are also several different strategies that you can employ that may reduce feelings of doubt or incapacity as you begin to return to your regular work schedule. 

Below, we’re exploring what can cause feelings of fear about returning to work, different management strategies, and the role that therapy can play in your successful return. 

Nervous About Returning To Work?

What Causes Anxiety About Returning To Work?

If you are just now being asked to return to work, you may experience feelings of nervousness. This could be due to internalized self-doubt, uncertainty, or the dynamic thrill of taking on something “new” or unusual compared to your regular daily patterns.

When we are asked to return to work after an extended absence, our brain may be so used to the isolation and lack of social interaction that the very concept can feel overwhelming.  Returning to in-person meetings, watercooler socialization and office politics can all contribute to nervousness, especially if some are already struggling with some form of social anxiety disorder.

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 may even be worried about changes that will be implemented since the last time you had to show up.

Tips For Managing Anxiety About Returning To Work

No matter what the cause of your nervousness is, there are several different strategic measures that you can begin to implement that can potentially reduce your nervousness about the upcoming change. We've outlined a few of them below. 

Going To Therapy

Online therapy can be an effective way to reduce anxiety.  Therapy has been scientifically suggested to can treat both the symptoms of any contributing anxiety disorders (such as social anxiety disorder or general anxiety disorder) and the underlying thought processes that can be problematic.

There are a range of different therapy methods that could be beneficial to you as you work through your journey to a higher quality of life. For example: A therapist can help you learn relaxation techniques to help you cope with distressing symptoms as they begin to rise. You may also work to examine and address negative thoughts that you can then replace with healthier alternatives.

Taking Care Of Yourself

Taking care of yourself can be an easy way for many to reduce anxiety and improve mental health. This can look different for everyone, however, tasks like sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet can be a good place to start.

Sometimes our worries can get in the way of taking care of ourselves. For example: If you are concerned and worried about returning to work, you may not feel motivated to follow your exercise and nutrition routine due to stress or distraction. This process may deteriorate your mental and physical wellbeing over time. 

If you are currently experiencing this type of cyclical struggle, you may try to add a fruit or vegetable to each meal, or set a sleep schedule to follow every night. 

Taking care of yourself also means doing things that you enjoy. These steps may vary depending on your unique experience, however, and truly depend on the activities that you find to be fulfilling and refreshing. For example: You may take the time to learn a new hobby or spend time with your family. Doing so can add joy and meaning to your life and help you to feel more resilient and ready to tackle your fears of returning to the workplace.

Talking To Your Boss

Many of the concerns that people have about returning to work can be related to the changes you’ll face and the possible stress that may occur because of your return. Not knowing about different changes or if the office will have measures in place to care for your personal safety in the post-pandemic era can be scary. However, you may be able to address this by speaking to your employer.

For example: If you are worried about having different responsibilities that you have had at home, consider asking them about 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 that appropriate accommodations be made.

Having the answers to these questions and knowledge about the situation surrounding your return can be valuable information that may help you reduce your nervousness.

Learning Coping Techniques

Coping and relaxation techniques can be valuable assets to have in your back pocket for difficult moments throughout the course of your life. They can contribute to resiliency and can help you to experience a higher quality of life, no matter what you’re currently facing. 

One simple method to try relies on one of the most common human experiences: Breathing. 

Most people can do this at any place or time. To begin, you can try breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for three seconds, and then slowly letting the breath out for six seconds. After doing this a few times, you may find that your body and mind begin to relax.

You can also try positivity exercises. This can take the form of affirmations, such as telling yourself that you will get through the difficulties and that it is okay to feel the way you do. You may also benefit from keeping a journal to write down positive aspects of your days or what you are grateful for.

Organizing Your Life

The concept of organizing your life can feel overwhelming. However, you may choose to start small with the organization of your workspace. Studies show that organizing your desk or work area can help many to reduce symptoms of stress. 

Whether you’ve been in-office or you’ve been working from home for an entire year, there is a good chance that your work area could benefit from a clean-up. You can also take this time to decorate and personalize your space, 

Decorations, such as trinkets or pictures from special moments can be a simple touch that bring you joy and relief from your symptoms of stress. You may also choose to invest in scientifically suggested stress reducers to include in your space. 

For example: A plant on your desk can also help reduce your stress and anxiety. Desk organizers can also give your desk a tidier appearance, which can positively impact your mental health. 

You can also choose to apply the concept of organization to your mental health and emotional state in the form of compartmentalization. This strategy can help you with your nervousness about returning to work, as you may be able to redirect your thoughts and emotions to more productive patterns and processes. 

How Can Online Therapy Help Those Struggling With Returning To Work? 

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

Online therapy, however, can be just as effective for many — and offers a more convenient delivery format that you can explore via a smart phone or device in the comfort of your own home. BetterHelp is an avenue that you can use to connect with a licensed therapist. 

Is Online Therapy Effective? 

With the rise of online therapy over the past few years, many may be wondering if it is truly as effective as in-person therapeutic options. Current scientific literature reviews suggest that online therapy offers the same benefits that traditional in-person therapeutic formats do, offering patients the option to seek care from the comfort of their home in a more convenient and affordable way (in many cases). 

Nervous About Returning To Work?


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 many different strategies that you can begin to use to attempt to experience a higher quality of life and confidence in the workplace. Therapy, self-care, and organizational methods can all be helpful aids as you navigate your feelings about your return. BetterHelp can connect you to licensed therapists in your area of need. 

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