Stressed about Returning to the Office?
Following 18 months of remote work, many in the DMV are returning to the office with a mix of emotions. As a therapist, the greatest stressor I hear is fear about the Delta variant. At this moment, that fear is outpacing social anxiety about reacclimating to an in-person office experience and the constant social interaction this will entail. Obviously, the most important step to brace for this change and to combat this anxiety is to get vaccinated if that has not already occurred.
But even vaccinated individuals are concerned about breakthrough infections, especially if they have young children at home.
In this context, employees are finding it useful to control what they can. For hybrid workers (which is the new norm) this may mean accessing the office calendar to determine which days in the office will be least crowded and requesting these less congested days, keeping N95 and KN95 masks at work, and taking precautions outside of the office that limit exposure. It can also be helpful to be selective about media consumption and follow news from infectious disease experts like Marc Lipsitch at Harvard rather than sensationalist stories that ramp up anxiety and cause unnecessary additional angst.
There was a useful metaphor in a recent Washington Post article about the impact of local vaccination rates and what it means to be a vaccinated individual:
“It’s like the difference between being in a trailer and a house in a hurricane: Both might get hit, but one harder than the other.”
Considering metaphors like this is an adaptive strategy to maintain perspective and help to process risk.
For anxious individuals with young children or other specific vulnerabilities, it could be helpful to share these concerns with a trusted supervisor, especially if it could lead to allowing for an accommodation to reduce exposure or risk.
Keep in mind that it could feel restorative to regain a healthier level of human interaction in this new chapter. It’s a bit like riding a bike. Once we finally go for a ride, we discover how great it feels and remember how much we missed elements of the experience.
If you are leaving pets who were adopted during the pandemic, they will struggle to adjust, and it is worth enlisting caretakers, dog walkers and doggie day care experiences to fill the void.
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