Managing the Stress of Returning to Work
By Kamara Tayo Jones, MSW, RSM, Ba,Sc
Stress is a normal part of daily life. It is the body’s response to changes in your environment, physical needs, thoughts and feelings, and relationships.
Adapting to a “new normal” has brought it’s own changes and stress. Many of you are have had to cope with working from home or a temporary leave from work. As people slowly return to work there may be relief in returning to a normal routine. There is also fear and anxiety about adapting to the changes, understanding health concerns, and managing a new reality while being productive at work. These concerns add to the already mounting stress of the last few months amid life stresses we all experience daily. It can leave you feeling like the situation is out of control.
If you focus on what is not within your control, you use energy and resources with no appreciable gains. When you focus on what is within your control instead, your efforts will be rewarded with better ability to cope and better quality of life.
Try the following to strengthen your ability to manage the stress:
Awareness: Spend some time identifying your thoughts and feelings. Knowing how you feel can help you take direct action to improve your mood. For example, it is normal to be concerned for your health and safety. Understand your concerns and familiarize yourself with the health and safety procedures at your workplace to help you feel confident that your health and safety are protected.
Take Action: Learn about yourself, your likes, and dislikes. Make changes to how you spend your time accordingly. Set boundaries to ensure you are using your work and free time effectively. Take a movement break by stretching at your desk or walking to the water cooler for a drink of water.
Invest in You: Take care of yourself by doing activities that bring you joy, help you rest, and help you recover energy. Try reading, watching, or listening to comedy; exercising; gardening; cooking; or try something new. Choose quality foods for your meals for energy and nutrition. Explore relaxation strategies such as visualization, meditation, or deep breathing.
Positive attitude: Change the way you talk or think about something to change your response to stress. Rather than saying “I hate having to deal with all these new rules,” try “these rules are annoying, but they allow me and everyone else to be safe and protect each other.”
Social Connection: Connect with friends and family in-person (while practicing social distancing, of course) or virtually through social media, video, email, or text. Social contacts help you feel secure and can increase self-esteem and positivity.
Talk: Coworkers and management are experiencing changes in the workplace as well. Listen to what they are saying and share your own experiences. You may be able to find support from each other.
Build a daily routine: There is a sense of normalcy in following a daily routine that maintains productivity while keeping a manageable work-life balance. Even if your work schedule may differ daily, try waking, sleeping, eating, resting and exercising around the same time each day. This helps you regain some control of your daily activities, as well as your energy and focus throughout the day.
Kamara holds a Master’s of Social Work degree and a Bachelor of Arts & Science degree in psychology. She is a registered social worker with the Manitoba College of Social Workers and has worked in health and social services for over 21 years. Kamara has been an instructor for the University of Manitoba and provided mental health services in regional health programs. In her current role, she supports clients to manage chronic diseases, promote healthy behaviour change, and improve healthy living.