For the past year, life has been anything but normal, but as more people get their vaccinations, many companies now allow and are even requiring their employees to return to work in the office.
However, the life transition back to “normalcy” doesn’t feel normal at all for most people. Even though it’s only been just over a year, there is understandably a lot of returning to the office anxiety because lets face it – we have never experienced a global pandemic before and we have never before needed to learn how to manage returning to the office anxiety either.
The pandemic brought many changes to our lives, so it’s no wonder there are so many people struggling to adjust to being back in the office. This is normal. You are not alone.
‘Returning to the Office Anxiety’ is Manageable Like Any Other Life Transition
People across the globe are experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety, fear, and negativity as returning to traditional work environments poses new and old challenges.
Thankfully CBT can be very helpful here. Read on to learn 3 essential CBT Tools to Manage this Difficult Life Transition.
The tools used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help ease the stress and anxiety that many are feeling as they manage this difficult life transition of returning to the office.
CBT Tool 1: Reframing Your Thoughts
In the past year, it seems as if life has given us a thousand reasons to only see the negatives in life. It’s been a year full of loss, tragedy, and violence, and many people are now struggling to overcome chronic negativity and severe anxiety.
For those lucky enough to have been employed, after a year of working from home, it can be hard not to focus on the negative aspects of going back to work. After all, you finally got used to this whole working from home thing and likely experience more flexibility than before.
For those that were made redundant during the pandemic, the thought of returning to work and to the office can be very scary. But instead of focusing on the negatives, CBT can teach us to change our perspectives into a more positive and most importantly, supportive outlook.
CBT doesn’t ignore the negative thoughts – rather it teaches us how to work with them differently while cultivating helpful thoughts.
For example, instead of thinking, “I’m dreading the long commute to and from work,” we can turn this into, “The time I spent commuting will give me the alone time I need to decompress” and “I will get to have a separation of work and home again.”
Another example is if you have kids. You were probably home with them almost 24/7 for the past year. With no after-school activities, at-home learning, and sports canceled, you probably spent more time with your kids than you ever thought possible.
Even though you couldn’t wait for the day when they were back in school full time, now you may be filled with anxiety for not only them but what this new time apart will be like for your entire family.
Once again, CBT can help you turn these anxious thoughts into supportive ones.
CBT Tool 2: Be Intentional With Your Schedule
When you were working from home, you likely set yourself a schedule to stay distraction-free and productive (as best you could). While you may have fewer distractions in the office, it can still be hard to keep yourself on track.
But you can take these same practices you taught yourself at home and apply them to your office life.
Something that can help ease your mind is setting a schedule for your workday and your life outside of work. I often tell my CBT clients that keeping yourself on a schedule can help your brain process things faster while calming (and preventing) anxiety.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be completely booked solid all the time either. One of the blessings many people have experienced during multiple lockdowns was the ability to have more down time. Make sure to put down time in your schedule too. It is essential. So think about what it is you truly need and then make sure to write it in your calendar.
CBT Tool 3: Practice Mindfulness At Work (and Home)
You probably experienced anxiety and stress while working from home, but the pressure you feel in the office is likely heightened. Having many people in the same space often means having to manage different dynamics and energies. Research shows that Mindfulness at work is very effective and helpful.
This is exactly why incorporating mindfulness into your work day can make the transition easier. It can be as simple as taking 5 minutes to meditate at your desk. Or going for a walking meditation during a break.
With CBT, you can learn how to work with your body using deep breathing exercises that will help ease your anxiety and relax your brain.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, using apps, focusing on the breath, doing a body scan, taking time to savor a cup of tea, having a nurturing scent with you, taking care of a plant. The possibilities are endless.
Consider what is easiest for you to implement and go from there. As a general guideline, incorporating activities that move the body, connect with nature, involve the breath and focus on the senses are great and easy anchors to experience calm.
By practicing mindfulness at work, you can deal with the stress of being back in the office in a healthy way that will set you up for success as your day carries on.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK. If you need support easing the transition to working back in the office, CBT may be a helpful therapy approach for you as it teaches concrete tools / skills that will actually change your brain and your life. Please feel free to contact my London or Honolulu office to set up a free CBT Test Drive.