Managing COVID-19 anxiety while at work

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It is undoubtable that coronavirus anxiety has impacted the lives of every single one of us in ways that we could never have imagined.  But with all of the obvious negatives, a worldwide lockdown (with some countries introducing strict curfews and quarantines) has had some positives. We had more time to relax. More time do the things we love. We spent time with our families. And we have increased our skill set, with many of us taking up new hobbies.

However, unfortunately this worldwide lockdown has also increased our anxiety levels. In the US, 3 out of 5 Americans are worried about contracting COVID-19 while 49% of survey respondents are showing signs of depression.

Meanwhile a massive 64% of the U.K. population reports that they felt anxious or worried at the start of lockdown. 1 in 5 of those in the U.K. who reported high anxiety also reported that their work had been affected by the virus because they were finding working from home difficult.

However, despite finding working from home difficult, Bupa Health Clinics still found that 65% of U.K. workers felt anxious about their return to the office. 42% of respondents said that one of their main concerns was being able to properly socially distance while at work.  38% were concerned about their commute to the office and 37% were worried about their office not being clean enough.

Regardless of our location on the planet, its clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting both our home lives and our work lives.

Tips for Managing COVID-19 Anxiety & Depression at Work

Unsurprisingly, it is clear that there is high levels of coronavirus anxiety surrounding returning back to work – and this anxiety is completely justified. However, it is becoming more and more economically important for us to return to work and for society to attempt to return to some normality.

So, what can we actually do to make ourselves feel a bit better about returning to work?

1. Talk to people about your coronavirus anxiety

Like with anything, speaking to others about how you feel can greatly help you to express yourself and rationalize your fears.

I guarantee that you will find it incredibly helpful to speak to your colleagues. We all find great comfort in knowing that we’re not the only ones in a sinking ship. If your colleagues feel anxious about returning to the office, it’ll make you feel more at ease.

Speaking to your boss about how you feel may also aid you in coming up with a solution to handling your coronavirus anxiety. If you’re worried about the commute, then your boss might offer you flexible working so you can travel at less busy times. Similarly, if you’re worried about the cleanliness of the workplace, your boss may be able to add additional strategies to make you feel more comfortable.

2. Make time for the things you enjoy

It is important to get back into a routine, as this can help you more settled and reduce your anxiety.

In this routine, it is essential to keep doing the activities that brought you joy whilst in lockdown. For example, going for an evening walk around the neighborhood with your friend (socially distanced, of course). Or, spending an hour each evening learning a new skill. Perhaps you enjoyed baking things for your neighbor or even reading a new book each week.

3. Get some good sleep

As research has proven countless times that anxiety cause sleep problems, when going back to work it is more important than ever to focus on getting a good nights sleep.

Some top tips for getting a peaceful few hours rest, while suffering with coronavirus anxiety, include:

  • Meditating before bed, as this helps to quieten your mind and navigate your negative feelings
  • Taking time to wind down before getting into bed. Things such as having a bath, reading a book or listening to music are great ways to relax
  • Tailoring your environment to make it ideal for sleep. For example making it a dark, quiet and cool as possible
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption throughout the day
  • Limiting screen time before bed as the phone light keeps the brain awake. Similarly, the content on social media can elicit negative emotions and stress

4. Prepare yourself to go back to work

Preparation and planning is the key to success in almost every single aspect of our lives, and going back to work post pandemic is definitely not an exception.

As research has shown that time management training (which includes planning and scheduling) can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve sleep quality, we feel that carefully planning your weeks will help you tackle coronavirus anxiety.

You should plan what how you’re going to get to work and the quietest route. You should also consider what protective gear you’re going to take with you and how you intend on staying sanitized throughout the day. It is also essential to plan what you’re going to do when you get home from a busy day in the office!

5. Write down all the positives

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people are frustrated with working from home. Therefore, it shouldn’t hard for most of us to make a list of the positive reasons for returning to work.

Writing lists of the elements of work you enjoy will allow you to think positively about returning to the office. Positive aspects could include:

  • Working closely with team members
  • Not having to respond to emails so quickly
  • The coffee shop over the road,
  • The quiet (and child free!) work environment
  • The cool and very up to date computers you get to use at work
  • The change of scenery

6. Be realistic about the coronavirus facts

There is still a virus out there and, yes, going back to work is of course a risk. However, make sure you’re gathering all your coronavirus information and statistics from a reliable source. Such sources include trusted news websites or reliable statistical reporting pages.

7. Know what coronavirus support is available to you

Whether it’s a counselor at the office, subsidized therapy sessions or flexible working hours, this support will make you feel more at ease and settled when going back to work. Therefore, it is important to know exactly what support is offered to you by both the government and your employer… and to take full advantage of it.

8. Learn some calming techniques

There has been a lot of scientific evidence over the recent years to suggest that practicing mindfulness can significantly decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. It is therefore a no brainer to consider learning some mindfulness techniques to help with your coronavirus anxiety.

There are lots of different mindfulness activities to try, such as controlling breathing or the body scan methods.

9. Look after your body

Exercising and eating healthily will have a huge positive impact on your mood. In turn, helping you to control your levels of coronavirus anxiety.

When planning, preparing and making time for the things you enjoy, make sure you include some time to exercise, even if it is only going for a walk or doing a 1o minute workout.

Im all for treating yourself to chocolate or the occasional McDonalds. However, it is also essential to carefully consider and plan what healthy, nutritious foods you’re going to eat.

10. Take hygiene measures into your own hand

Although it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workplace meets COVID cleanliness guidelines, there is absolutely no harm in taking cleaning and hygiene that one step further.

When returning to work, bring your own hand sanitizer and wear gloves on the commute. Consider using antibacterial wipes on your desk and make sure you keep washing your hands thoroughly. Not only will this help prevent the spread of the virus, it is also rational to help you cope with and control the coronavirus anxiety surrounding this terrifying global pandemic.

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