RETURNING TO WORK DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC
Months ago we were living our lives, maybe even feeling invincible in some ways, when the world as we knew it got turned upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic, has changed us forever and will be something future generations read about in history books, but right now we are living it. For the past 6 weeks, many of us have been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions, now another change is coming, time to go back to work?!?!?!? This can stir up all sorts of emotions and cause us and to buckle up for another ride on the rollercoaster, but this may not bring the same excitement we get from being at an amusement park.
For some going back to work will be a seamless and easy transition, for others this may seem like an insurmountable task. Either way, it is important to acknowledge what we are feeling and experience it, not putting judgment on it or ourselves and letting it pass.
Questions that you might be thinking, what is this going to look like for me? Is it safe to return to work? My coworkers are looking forward to returning, is there something wrong with me? Or, my coworkers are scared to return, should I be scared as well? What if I don’t have childcare? With so many so many questions and unknowns, it can leave us feeling lost, confused, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Now is a good time to look at ways to navigate this “new normal” as we brave the stepping outside of the security of our homes and return to work.
There may be many things you feel are out of your control with this transition, this can bring on anxiety and panic. It is helpful to focus on what we can control rather then focusing on things that we cannot. Think about what things in your control and try putting your energy and efforts towards those things. For myself, I cannot control others use of sanitizing or wearing a mask but I can control my own well being, so making sure I have my sanitizer and mask with me and using them regularly helps me with controlling what I can.
Breathe. I know, I know, we are all breathing and that is why we are living, but most of us have never really learned to breath properly. On top of that, when we are hit with stressful situations our breathing is usually the first thing to be off. Because our breathing is on auto pilot and not something we think about regularly, we have to re-train it. One way to do this is to start practicing proper breathing regularly. To make this a new habit it is helpful to attach it to something you already do, such as brushing your teeth. After every time you brush your teeth, spend one minute focusing on your breathe and trying to breath in for 6 seconds and breath out for 6 seconds. You may find that your breathe is more or less shallow then 6 seconds, which is fine, adjust to what is best for you, it is more important that you are mindful and consistent.
Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, they are valid. Recognize this and try not to change them or judge them because they are different then someone else’s is a powerful tool. It is also helpful to recognize where in your body you might be struggling with a feeling and use this as a signal to practice mindfulness and coming back to your body and the present moment. Some grounding techniques that can helpful with this are using your five senses. What are you tasting, what are you hearing, what are you smelling, what are feeling (with touch), and what are you seeing. Once you are able to come to the present moment you will be more able to engage in what you are doing and remain focused on the positive.
Understanding your values and what you stand for can be important as you step foot back into the work place. What do you value? What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to stand for? Committing to your values and understanding them helps to navigate uncomfortable feelings or emotions you might have and helps to uncover these in uncomfortable situations you might find yourself in.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Acting in self-compassion is vitally important for your overall wellbeing. Ask yourself, are you treating yourself as you would a loved one? If not, you might want to rethink the thoughts you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself. Practicing a Loving Kindness Meditation, a couple times a week can be useful to bring Love and Kindness to yourself, those around you, and to the world as a whole, helping to center you and focus of health and healing for all. Self-compassion goes a long way and also allows us to spread compassion to those around us.