Since mid-March, around 46% of us in the UK have been forced to work from home. Whether that has meant swapping over the time you previously spent on a commute for some extra time in bed or fixing a lock on your door to stop your roommate barging in during conference calls, it’s safe to say most of us have adjusted to this new reality pretty well. However, after around 5 months of makeshift dining table offices and lunch breaks spent sunbathing in the garden, Boris has announced that if people can, they should start returning to work.
While this news undoubtedly comes as a delight to some people missing the obvious benefits of workplace interaction, large swathes of the population have reported feeling uneasy about this return to the ‘new normal’, with 65% of British workers feeling anxious about returning to the office, according to research by Bupa Health Clinics.
And this anxiety is largely justified. With such large shifts in society taking place since the onset of Covid-19, how are we able to return to ‘business as usual’ after being programmed to shelter ourselves from the virus for so long? Also, as the coronavirus has dramatically changed the way that we’ve socialised for the last 5 months, it’s unsurprising that many people are feeling sceptical about reintegrating themselves into the workforce.
However, in addition to knowing that you’re not going through this alone, there are many simple things you can do to settle those pre-work jitters, and get your head in the right space before returning to your 9-5. From finally picking up jogging to opening up your feelings to friends or colleagues, join us while we run you through 5 simple ways to deal with back to work anxiety.
What is anxiety?
But first of all, to really understand how to tackle these feeling of anxiety, it’s important to understand what it is, why it happens, and where it comes from. Evolutionarily, anxiety was useful to remind us how we responded to previous threatening situations. It’s also been understood to help us take fewer risks and seek safety in dangerous situations. However, if anxiety becomes excessive or irrational, it can override other judgements and can often stop people from thinking clearly.
Anxiety typically comes in two main forms, ‘state anxiety’, and ‘trait anxiety’. The former refers to how a person deals with specific stressful situations like a job interview or an exam and the latter refers to the stable tendency for a person to be in an anxious state. Trait anxiety may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or social anxiety disorder (SAD), whereas state anxiety is typically more of a transient emotion.
It is common to treat both forms of anxiety with a range of pharmaceutical and herbal medications, and even though they can be effective at lowering anxious feelings, many of them come with undesirable side-effects. For this reason, we believe it’s important to try out all other available avenues before reaching for the medicine cabinet, to try and achieve a clear mind through simple strategies that you can easily slot into your daily routine.
Don’t worry, we’re not recommending marathon training. According to The World Health Organisation just 75 minutes of high-intensity or 150 moderate-intensity physical activity each week has been proven to significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. High-intensity exercise aims to get your heart rate up to around 90% and the intention is to challenge your circulatory system, heart, lungs and muscles in short bursts. Examples can include anything from climbing stairs to running.
On the contrary, moderate-intensity exercise can include activities such as brisk walking, riding a bike, or even having a dance. However, since this type of exercise is lower in intensity, it’s recommended to pursue it for longer so it can have an equally beneficial effect on your body and mind.
Exercise helps you to deal with a low mood or overactive mind in a variety of ways. First of all when you exercise your body releases endorphins, otherwise known as the ‘feel-good chemical’. These endorphins then interact with the receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain while triggering a pleasurable feeling the body and mind, thus increasing your overall wellbeing.
Exercise is also a great way to distract your mind from negative feelings and emotions you may be experiencing. Since your mind and body is largely preoccupied when engaging in exercise, particularly that of high intensity, it’s useful at taking your mind off a particular worry. Also, exercising outside is particularly beneficial because it’s been shown to reduce a persons blood pressure and heart rate more than indoor exercise, which in turn reduces stress.
Another great way to soothe returning to work anxieties, it to use alternative therapeutic remedies such as CBD oil. You’ve probably heard the term ‘CBD’ crop up more in recent years, and this is because the cannabis extract is being increasingly accoladed for its ability to improve a variety of physical and mental conditions. In addition to relieving the effects of chronic pain and insomnia, CBD has also been found to help settle the mind of people suffering from anxiety.
Research into this miraculous compound is still ongoing, but current studies suggest that the main reason CBD is effective at lowering anxiety is because of the way it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex signalling system that is present throughout our body which helps us to regulate important functions. Among other important purposes, it has been shown to regulate the anxiety response in the amygdala, the part of our brain responsible for creating and controlling anxiety.
Therefore, when CBD is consumed, it helps the ECS to regulate this vital function so anxieties don’t become too overwhelming. CBD oil is also effective at helping people sleep better, and since being well rested has significant knock-on effects on physical and mental health, this is another way that taking CBD can help you to soothe your mind while lifting your mood.
You might now be wondering how to take CBD oil? You’re not alone, luckily, you can find cannabinoids in just about any product nowadays from gummy bears to hand cream, but we recommend using a high-quality CBD oil because it’s results are effective and less of the product gets wasted. For maximum results just pop a couple of drops of the oil under your tongue using the sublingual method, and look out for high-quality products. For example, Hemply Balance offers fantastic CBD oils because they’re all packed full with phytocannabinoids and terpenes that are found within the hemp plant, and their high cannabinoid count ensures that you can get your ample fix of CBD.
Communicate your thoughts
You’ve probably heard of the expression ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and even though the phrase is very cliche, it’s definitely true. Sharing your thoughts, feelings and anxieties with friends, roommates, family members or even colleagues can dramatically dissolve feelings of anxiety, and a big reason why this is so effective is because of something called ‘co-rumination’.
Co-rumination is a term psychologists have used for explaining negative problem sharing. When you co-ruminate with another person, you discuss and dissect problems together, and this makes way for mutual encouragement, constructive problem solving, and a healthy rationalisation of situations.
Also, since current anxiety is so widespread due to the prevalence of return to work anxiety on top of the pandemic we’ve all been living through, many people you choose to open up to will likely be experiencing similar feelings to you. Connecting to other people on things you’re both going through will encourage you to rationalise your worries, and help you to understand you’re not alone.
Thanks to Covid-19, most of our daily routines have been flipped on their head. The switch from working in bed in your favourite onesie to communing into work at 7:30.a.m may be quite jarring if you don’t work at preparing your mind and sleep schedule. Also, since getting into a steady routine has been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety, it makes sense to do everything you can to make this back to work transition as frictionless as possible.
If you’re still working from home, one way you can prepare yourself for this change is to alter the hours of work so they’re the same as if you were the office. It’s easy to slip into the habit of working at irregular hours when your bedroom is the place that you work, relax, and sleep, but setting boundaries and getting back into that 9-5 schedule will pay off when you return to work.
If you’ve already made the transition, making sure you’re getting enough sleep is a great way to make sure you’re prepared for the day ahead. Also, making to-do-lists and keeping your personal spaces neat and organised is a great way to stay prepared while managing your anxieties.
Try mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness mediation is an ancient practice that is focused on maintaining a constant and careful awareness of your thoughts and feelings. It is particularly effective at reducing anxiety because it allows you to reflect on your anxious thoughts before focus is gently resumed on the breath. This helps a person to minimise the power of their anxious thoughts and encourages them to achieve a calm and serene state of mind.
In addition to reducing anxiety and restoring a calm and relaxed state of mind, meditation has also been scientifically proven to lift peoples mood and increase focus, and much of this is due to its power in boosting grey matter in a part in the brain called the precuneus. The precuneus is the area of the brain that links the two cerebral hemispheres, and it is in part responsible for generating feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Therefore, when the grey matter in this area is increased, as do feelings of joy and contentment.
You only need to meditate for around 2-10 minutes every day to see tangible results, but if you want to see even better results, it’s recommended that you meditate for a bit longer.