How to Manage Anxiety Over Returning to Work Amid COVID-19

August 4, 2020
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As more and more businesses begin to reopen, many employees are having to deal with the anxiety of returning to the workforce while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the country.

According to a LinkedIn Workforce Confidence survey, more than 70% of workers in retail, education and entertainment said they fear being exposed to the virus by people who may not be taking safety precautions seriously, reported “Today.”

Experts say one of the first steps to handle your anxieties is to acknowledge that what you are feeling is real.

“We must begin by recognizing that this internal fear is valid,” Dr. Robert W. Amler, dean of School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College, told the outlet. “Just like you cannot tell someone their shoulder doesn't hurt, you cannot tell someone they aren't afraid.”

Next, Amler said to follow the “4 Ws” for mitigating safety.

“Wear your mask; wash your hands; watch your distance (minding the six-feet apart rule) and then walk away, meaning don’t stay in clustered groups for long periods of time,” he told "Today."

Dr. Nina Vasan, MD, founder & executive director of The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, added that you should take stock of how you normally react in stressful situations and use that to remember when to enact anxiety-reducing activities like deep breathing or meditating.

Vasan said planning ahead is also key so you aren’t caught off guard and forced to make stressful decisions in the spur of the moment.

“This planning can help ease the anxiety around returning to work,” Vasan shared. “This includes your commute to work, how you’ll interact with co-workers, what your workspace will look like, how you’ll eat during the day.”

Other suggestions include talking to your co-workers and managers about office procedures, safety protocols and flexibility regarding returning to work.

“Let your employer and coworkers know how you are feeling,” said Vasan. “If you see something that makes you feel unsafe, bring it up in an open and respectful manner.”

Finally, taking a break to destress throughout the day is also highly encouraged, if possible.

“Take a 10-minute meditation break during the day to focus and ground yourself,” Vasan added. “Deep breathing helps calm and center you, it’s been scientifically proven to decrease anxiety, as well as help improve things like mood and productivity.”

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