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How to Manage Your Return to Office Jitters

Many of you will be included in the next return-to-office wave that will occur over the next month or so. There might very well be some mixed emotions, pushback, or perhaps interwoven excitement for the anticipated change. You are far from alone if you have started to experience more anxiety, sleep disturbances, or the resurfacing of certain insecurities you thought for sure were dormant.

With any transition or change comes a reallocation in energy. Sometimes you have the luxury of planning for this shift, while other times you have to simply learn as you go. There tends to be a needed balance between being proactive and anticipating certain changes, while at the same time avoiding over-engagement in such prep work and futuristic thinking.

Solely focusing on the future with extreme intensity and neglecting the present can ignite anxiety and self-doubt. These thinking patterns naturally pull you from the present moment, build stress, and impact your ability to rejuvenate. They can also interfere with your ability to get your reps in. Reps help you build confidence and give you the ability to easily tap into acquired resilience and past experiences.

In order to ease some of your social anxiety, try easing yourself into social situations and taking positive risks. This push requires patience and silencing your inner critic. Experiences that used to be second nature or require little to no effort may now be incredibly triggering. This is normal, you just need more practice. Identify what step one is and go from there. You will undoubtedly gain momentum that you can then apply to step two. It’s on your terms, at your pace.

This momentum pushes you to adopt a mindset that welcomes discomfort and change while at the same time supporting your timeline and need for control. Anxiety gains power when you completely surrender and adjust your actions and lifestyle to avoid discomfort and the unpredictable. Time and time again, this framework only sabotages and stagnates rather than creates comfort. You are designed to experience new things, grow, and learn from what you engage in. Life is not supposed to be completely clean and controlled. When you collectively strive for this type of rigidity, you welcome disappointment or begin to omit several of the experiences that create connection and happiness.

Prioritizing your mental health should not be negotiable. You have several roles to play and neglecting the basics will only steer you farther and farther away from productivity, connection, and contentment. Establishing a routine and capitalizing on what you can control is key. It generates balance, consistency, and again confidence. This confidence and the energy needed to take care of yourself will fuel you as you make the transitions that can trigger anxiety and self-doubt.

Like many, your life may have been in complete disarray for the first chunk of 2020. It was a tall order to constantly readjust, reallocate, and well… for most, just get through the day. Many of you may feel that life is still messy, but you more than likely have found a rhythm in at least one aspect of your life. This process required you to check in with yourself, be creative, and experiment. You acquired reps, confidence, and resilience.

When your structure is about to change, perhaps because you are heading into the office or starting a new job, it is so important to hone in on the basics and incorporate practices that encourage peace. Understanding your behavioral patterns and identifying whether or not your efforts align with productive outcomes are key.

Establish a routine

  • Have a scheduled bedtime: one that encourages uninterrupted rest and rejuvenation.

  • Avoid multitasking: This helps you practice being present.

  • Ditch the screen when you wake up and before bed: Consuming first thing in the morning or right before bed tends to stimulate you in ways that are counterproductive or generate stress.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day: This will help you limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. It also will improve your concentration and squash cravings.

  • Continue your workouts or start one. Just simply taking a 10-minute walk up the street can do wonders. You might even try to walk and talk during a meeting… this is an example of positive multitasking!

Create and maintain healthy boundaries

  • Before you return to work, think about when you will arrive and when you will leave. Is there any flexibility? What can you do before work and after work that is just for you?

  • Are you creating unrealistic expectations and feel that you need to always "be on" or positive? Remember, you are going to feel different simply because you are in a different environment and soaking up and expending different kinds of energy than you did at home.

  • Use your commute home as a time to reflect, unwind, and morph into another one of your many roles. Use the physical location change as a transition for your mind from work.

  • Incorporate when you play, connect, socialize, and relax into your schedule. Understanding how and why you function the way that you do and what your limits are. This self-reflection will help prevent burnout and over-exertion.

  • Avoid signing up or for too much and saying "yes" to everything that comes your way. Remember that you can ask questions, share how you feel (use your I-statements), and remove the expectation of always "being on." Saying "no" is ok!

Remind yourself that not everyone you work with is going to feel the same way you do about COVID-19 related issues, in-person meetings, small talk, or readjusting their lifestyle. Many will have to grieve yet again. Leaving pets, family members, or the comforts they created in their home will affect everyone in different ways. Be kind not only with yourself but with others. You have done something similar before though, you do have resilience and the ability to get back into "social" shape.

Returning to the office or starting a new role is an adjustment—one that can ignite an array of responses. Remember that feelings are fluid, but listen to the ones that tend to linger and cause pain or distress. This is a good indicator that you need to adjust your boundaries or make a change. Progress with patience and tap into the confidence and resilience that you have gained over the past two years. You are stronger and more capable than you think!

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