Feeling anxious about going back to the office during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s important to manage your stress to ensure a healthy return – physically and mentally, experts at Ohio State University say.
“Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it’s sustained over such a long period of time,” says K. Luan Phan, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at OSU. “Challenges will remain as businesses reopen, and the typical workplace will look very different following this pandemic. We’ll have to find new ways to connect with colleagues and work as a team while maintaining our distance and preventing the spread of infection.”
For starters, ask your supervisor about what changes are being made in the office to help keep workers safe. If your employer isn’t taking the precautions you feel are needed to prevent the spread of illness, speak up.
Smart steps such as staying home when you’re feeling sick, practicing physical distancing, and regularly cleaning workstations and surfaces not only will help prevent the spread of illness, but also can make you and your co-workers feel safer and less anxious.
“Physical and mental health are closely intertwined,” says Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing and chief wellness officer at OSU. “While you practice good hygiene and physical distancing in the office, you should also practice stress-reduction.”
Manage your stress: Use stress-reduction apps, practice mindfulness and self-care that calms your breathing and nerves, and make a plan for you and your family to manage the transition back to work. Having a plan can go a long way to building resilience and helping you feel better about returning.
Stay fit to be well: About 80% of chronic conditions are preventable by engaging in a few lifestyle behavior changes, such as regular physical activity, eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. These changes can make a big difference in helping you fight off viruses.
Take proactive measures to protect others: Stay home if you don’t feel well, get your flu shot and, if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, get that too.
Keep your distance: Avoid crowding into conference rooms and keep your workspace at least 6 feet from your nearest co-worker. Continue holding virtual meetings and limit direct contact. Many adjustments have been made in recent months to help employees work from home. Health experts recommend continuing with remote work or staggering work schedules.
Keep your guard up: The easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the threat is over. Keep taking precautions – wash your hands for 20 seconds while taking five big deep breaths, have sanitizer and disinfecting wipes handy, and clean surfaces often. Wear a mask and avoid shaking other people’s hands.