Mentally prepare for life back at the office or on campusMental Health · Sep 2, 2021
As vaccination rates rise and restrictions ease, some people may be returning to work or school in the coming weeks. The last year and a half has been met with many adjustments. Working and studying from home has meant less social interaction and feedback from others, learning to self-regulate schedules, and changes in work hours and expectations. Despite a craving for contact with others and the desire to get out of the house, it can be hard to imagine returning to the old grind. Now as we transition to an even newer “normal” where we are able to return to the office and school, it can feel overwhelming.
The following are some tips for coping with the pressures of returning to the office or school:
Re-establish rituals and routines:
Prepare for bed at a regular time and get up at a regular time (best to start at least one week prior to work or school starting). A regular routine for sleep and waking helps to establish healthy sleep patterns, reduce exhaustion, and improve stress.
Limit the decisions that need to be made in the morning. Since pj’s aren’t an option for the office or on campus, take the time to pick out an outfit the night before. If you make yourself lunch and snacks try doing that the night before as well. The less mind clutter in the morning the more relaxed we are with starting the day.
Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to catch the bus or commute without the stress of a time crunch.
Consider replacing old habits with new ones. This may mean sitting down to a proper breakfast each day, a morning workout, or taking a few minutes for gratitude or meditation before heading out the door. Re-establishing what a work day or school day looks like is a great time to introduce habits that feel good and promote wellness.
Create your schedule:
For many people, work or school life may not be the same as pre-pandemic. If you are adjusting to a hybrid model where you are at home on some days and are at the office or on campus on others days, be sure to set a schedule that is consistent for days at home and days at the office. Predictability can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Use a calendar to take the pressure off of managing the schedule in your head.
Communicate schedules and expectations with colleagues and friends to help everyone feel safe and on board.
Expect to be flexible and adaptable as things get figured out. We are still coping with the unknowns of life during the pandemic. Choosing to accept and go with the flow can help ease worries and stay positive.
Make time for self-care:
One of the luxuries of working or attending virtual classes from home has been the flexibility to take breaks throughout the day as needed or desired. Breaks are healthy and in many cases can help improve our focus and productivity. Be sure to take a lunch break, get up and walk around, grab a coffee at a nearby cafe, take a moment to socialize, take a walk, or plan a workout or social event outside of your home to relax and decompress.
Having more time at home has provided insight into the importance of staying connected in our relationships, the value of downtime, and shed a light on the vulnerability of our physical health. Maintaining a healthy work life or school life balance means taking time to rebuild a social life with the people that matter, being mindful of how we use our time (do activities that have meaning to you and let the other stuff go), and engage in physical activity that is sustainable and enjoyable.
Surviving a pandemic has not been easy and adjusting to the new “normal” may not be a breeze either. There will be unexpected positive surprises and unexpected challenges. Self-compassion is about offering yourself the kindness and respect that you would give to others. A simple strategy when noticing your inner critic getting loud is to ask yourself, “What advice would I give a friend in this situation?” and take your own advice.
Practice re-engaging socially:
Non-human contact has become a norm and for many people it has made socializing seem awkward and uncomfortable. Socializing is a skill that benefits from practice. If you are heading back to the office or on campus this Fall, it might be helpful to reconnect with colleagues and friends beforehand. When at the office, stop by a colleague’s desk and say a quick hello. If you’re going back on campus, meet up with friends for a quick coffee. Slowly build or rebuild connections. It is the nuanced social interaction at the office and on campus that most people have missed.
If the thought of going back to the office or on campus is causing heightened stress and anxiety, consider seeking support from a counsellor. TELUS Health MyCare counsellors are available for virtual consultations so you can get individualized, practical tips and support in the comfort of your own home*.
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* Counselling appointments require additional payment of $120 inclusive of applicable taxes. Users under employer-sponsored solutions will not pay a fee for the service. Any payments for appointments must be paid using a valid credit card. An in-app receipt will be provided for you to claim for reimbursement if applicable.