Navigating Your Feelings As Businesses and Schools Reopen
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically upended routines around the world. From health risks to financial uncertainty, many of us have experienced unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety within the last year. According to a May 2020 study, one-third of Americans reported experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic.
As schools and businesses reopen across the United States, you might feel a sense of apprehension as you return to your regular routine—or you might be feeling overwhelmed if you’re at high risk. Between keeping up with the latest news on reopenings to managing negative thoughts, here are some tips to help you navigate your feelings as schools and businesses reopen.
Avoid ruminating on the worst-case scenarios.
You might experience excessive worry if you don’t know what will happen when you return to work, and you might find yourself ruminating on the worst possible outcome. For many people, the idea of returning to the office likely raises concerns about putting your physical health at risk.
While these risks can feel daunting, constant worries about worst-case scenarios can take a serious toll on your mental health. In reality, most situations fall somewhere in the middle of success and disaster. If you’re so overwhelmed with negative thoughts that you can’t function in your daily life, consider seeking professional help to lower your anxiety levels.
To combat chronic worrying, remind yourself that you have control over your behavior in the workplace. From wearing a mask to practicing social distancing, taking precautions to protect your physical health can help ease your anxiety.
Manage anxiety with preparation.
Avoiding ‘all or nothing’ thinking involves preparation. When you’re prepared, you can adjust your expectations when returning to the office, which can help you successfully navigate your back-to-work worry period.
For example, consider how you can prepare yourself to stay safe in public. It might help to ask yourself how you’ll manage your daily commute, what protective gear to keep in your bag, and how you’ll interact with coworkers. Even small habits—like laying out your clothes the night before—can ease anxious thoughts and help you feel more in control.
Seek accurate news sources.
To manage chronic worrying, be intentional with how much time you spend watching the news and where you get it from. For example, you may choose to listen to the news during your morning commute for updates on the pandemic and stock market but avoid scrolling through social media during your free time.
If you’re a chronic worrier, be sure to choose official sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), for the latest news on the state of the pandemic. Then, refer to your local health authorities for daily news.
Set clear boundaries.
Even if you limit your news intake and devise a plan for returning to the office, you might still experience anxious thoughts when friends, family, and colleagues talk to you about the pandemic.
To avoid excessive worry and minimize family problems, be direct with your loved ones. Set boundaries by letting your loved ones know that you prefer not to engage with them about the pandemic, and offer to reach out when you’re ready to talk about it.
If you’re under stress in the workplace, talk to your manager about your concerns. With businesses reopening across the country, many managers have learned to be more flexible about what work looks like during COVID-19. If you’re high risk, consider asking your manager about telework and virtual event options so you can fulfill your job responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed.
Ask for help if you need it.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to take care of your mental health and surround yourself with support. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions to our daily lives can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and depression. If left untreated, chronic worrying and rumination can have serious side effects on your physical health, from sleeping problems to chronic pain.
Regardless of whether you experience anxious thoughts once in a while or rumination every day, you’re not alone. If you’re experiencing overwhelming anxiety or seeking treatment for a mental health condition such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), don’t hesitate to ask for mental health support. Psychotherapy can help you change negative thoughts by noticing, rationalizing, and re-evaluating negative thought patterns.
At the Therapy Group of DC, we’re here to help you face life’s challenges with resilience and resourcefulness. One of our licensed psychologists will help you understand your anxious thoughts, navigate your feelings, and learn healthy ways to manage your mental health as you return to work or school.