How to deal with the anxiety of returning to the office

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Working from home has become the norm for a lot of people.

But now, as many people are starting to go back to the office, experts are helping navigate the anxiety that comes with this big change.

“Everyone that’s there, is there because they want to be there,” asserts Trevor Nelson, a Columbus resident who returned to the office full-time in April.

He says those not yet comfortable with returning to work, have not been forced to do so.

But for months now, many people have been itching for a return to normal.

“Now that that time has finally come, I think you’re right. It is anxiety provoking for many people,” admits Dr. Megan Schabbing, the Medical Director of Psychiatric Emergency Services for OhioHealth.

Some people, like Nelson, are thrilled about heading back to the office.

“To me it was helpful to talk to people, and not be isolated by myself at home. So, I was actually excited about coming back to work,” says Nelson.

Others, however, have their reservations about the change.

“I was a little nervous because I haven’t been at work in almost a year-and-a-half. So, I was nervous,” admits Gayathri Pillai, another employee in Columbus who just returned to the office for the first time this week.

“Even if you never thought you’d be at home, working out of a home office. It’s a comfort zone now for many people,” Dr. Schabbing describes.

But it’s more than the separation from their children and partners that has some uneasy about returning to a traditional office setting.

“Just seeing people again, in a bigger volume. Which I haven’t done in a very long time,” says Pillai.
With just about half of the population vaccinated so far, there are still fears about contracting COVID-19.

“Many people are still concerned about getting sick. So, I think there’s a combination of factors at play here,” says Dr. Schabbing.

But experts say there are steps to help reduce that stress.

“First and foremost, I recommend you talk about it. If you keep stress and anxiety bottled up inside, it can actually cause a lot of other problems,” Dr. Schabbing warns.

Just having those conversations, for experts, can also help normalize stigmas associated with mental health.

And with more people than ever experiencing anxiety and depression for the first time, experts are reminding people that they are not alone.

“Sometimes just starting that conversation, will help someone overcome their shyness or hesitation in terms of talking about these things,” says Dr. Schabbing. “This is going to cause everybody to look at the workplace in a totally different way.”

Experts say if you’re stressed about returning to work, have a conversation with your boss. Ask them if there is a way to ease back into it, or some kind of hybrid model available

They also recommend finding coping strategies such as exercising, yoga, or meditation and be deliberate about practicing them daily.

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