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Doctors Offer Advice on Combating Dread of Returning to Workplace

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People are returning to in-person work, but they could stir anxiety for some who have been out of the office during the pandemic.

As COVID-19 cases drop, the lights are coming back on at offices across the country. But the thought of returning to work in person could be stressful for some. Doctor Mary Moffitt is director of the Resident and Faculty Wellness Program at Oregon Health and Science University. She says feeling anxious about this change is a natural response. Moffitt says it could inspire thoughts of dread, but there are other ways to think about this transition.

“There’s, generally speaking, ways in which when we’re anxious we’re not really factoring in what way might this go well? asked Moffit. Might it feel good to actually be interacting with our colleagues again? Might it feel good to actually see people without a mask?”

Moffitt says if it’s possible, people should consider hybrid work situations where they are only in the office a few days a week. She adds that if the anxiety of returning to the office is debilitating, they should reach out to a healthcare professional.

Doctor Nicole Brady with UnitedHealthcare says people should give themselves breaks and take a walk or listen to soothing music to help manage their anxiety. And she notes that people should be prepared before they return to the office.

“Packing a lunch ahead of time, knowing how we’re going to get kids to and from activities, but stepping back and doing some advance planning can really alleviate some of that return-to-the-office stress,” said Brady.

Brady says people also can try meditating and deep-breathing exercises and that there are phone applications to help guide them.

 Moffitt says there are other ways to help with this transition, including asking for what you need.

“Increase our self-care activities and protect our sleep, said Moffitt. Increase our exercise time, even if it’s only 20 minutes. Add it on. Practice more self-compassion than self-criticism, and increase our reaching out for support from our family and our friends.”

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