For the last few weeks, a common theme emerging in my counselling and psychotherapy practice is the anxiety about getting back to a physical office. Over the last two years of the pandemic, remote working from the comfort of your own home (or anywhere in the world) gained a lot of popularity. While that sometimes meant longer working hours and blurred boundaries, being able to dress the way you wanted to and be wherever you wanted to, gradually became the way of life. Some termed it the ‘new normal’. But how do we define normal? The human mind tends to call whatever it sees most often/ common as ‘normal’. The average or the majority is termed normal. Pre COVID-19, working from a brick and mortar office was normal. Now that things are opening up and restrictions are easing out, most of us have a constant sense of anxiety about ‘how will I manage’… But there is also a deep sense of loss… loss of freedom, autonomy, flexibility and control.
Here are some tips that can help you ease in to a physical office routine:
- Start slow and gradual
Talk to your managers/ team mates if you can start with a hybrid model initially. Your body and mind are more likely to adapt to the change quicker and better, if you tell them they are still in control and completely ‘in-charge’. Start with going twice a week if you can. Everyone is in the same boat and there is no shame in explaining your apprehensions or wanting to take time before you can do something different. Some organizations might just be happier catering to your needs.
- Set a realistic sleep wake routine
Planning to wake up at 5am if your usual routine has been 10am will not help. It not only adds unnecessary pressure on your mind and body, it can also increase anxiety. Moreover, if you are unable to achieve it initially, you may recognise disappointment and frustration. Your sleep wake routine needs to be sustainable and in case you need to change it, change it by a maximum of 30 minutes daily.
- Make lists
Even if you are not a ‘list’ person, having your “TO-DOs” and “TO-PACKS” can be helpful and calming to your nervous system. Knowing you are prepared and have planned your day/ week in advance reinforces the belief that you are the boss of yourself. In case of a contingency or unexpected event also, your list (of things to do/ things to keep in your office bag/ grocery you need to buy/ social events on your calendar) comes handy.
Pro Tip- Do not keep more than two personal TO-DOs on your list for a day if you are slowly trying to get back to a commute routine.
In the last two years you may have picked up more tasks in your usual routine, considering the time and energy you saved by not commuting to an office daily. It is time to make those changes, yet again. Think of what all you can hire help for. For house chores? Laundry? Baby sitting? Driving? Cooking or deliveries? You still only have 24 hours a day. If you have to make time/ energy to dress up daily, commute etc, some things will have to go off your list. Seek help.
- Conversations with housemates
Your housemates will be affected by your new routine (and vice versa). Do not suffer in silence. Express your concerns and listen to theirs. Divide tasks. Share feelings. Set boundaries. Talk about the time it may take you to settle in the new office + your personal routine. Until it does not start to come naturally, you may even want to set a time for when you can be available for them and when you would be needing alone time for yourself to wind down or just take care of yourself.
- Make the commute fun
Like listening to a podcast or reading a book? Want to find a colleague or friend you can commute with for a while? Want to finish your online orders? Want to review notes from yesterday? Try a new meditation? Anything that can make the drive/ ride less dreadful for you- do it!
- Have something in your schedule to look forward to
Once you are back home after work, reward yourself. It can be a good shower, your favourite beverage, some flowers, a walk with your pet, watching your comfort show or anything which makes you smile and eases out the stress.
Good luck, you got this!
I am always open to knowing what you currently are struggling with/ need more insights about. Feel free to drop a message with suggestions for what you want to read more about.
Until next time 🙂