Going back to work and our mental health

During the summer many of us have enjoyed some time off. Be it a trip abroad, a festival weekend or a week relaxing at home, taking a break is vital. Now, it is coming to that time again where we are preparing to return to work. Undoubtedly, this can be a tricky time, reestablishing a work ethic, a routine, and opening ourselves to the stresses associated with the workplace. Considering this, it is unsurprising that returning to work can be difficult and impact our mental health. But what impact does it really have, and what can we do to make this transition easier?

How does returning to work impact our mental health?

Any period of transitioning or adjusting can cause stress and impact our mental wellbeing. Of course the impact can depend on initial mental health issues and how long a person has been off work. Here are some examples of how returning to work relates to mental health:

  • Self esteem and self-efficacy issues. Commonly relates to whether or not a person feels they are capable of doing their job to a good standard. If off work for an extended amount of time, this can be very relevant.
  • Social anxiety. Especially if you haven’t seen them in a while, socialising and mixing with colleagues can be quite stressful. This is particularly the case of course for those starting a new job and becoming the new member of a team.
  • Feeling a bit low when the holidays are over. I think we all have felt a slight sadness or low mood following a wonderful holiday, and having to go back to work. This is completely normal. However, if this feeling persists, it may mean someting else is going on, and further help is needed.
  • COVID-19 related issues: Many have voiced concern regarding their physical autonomy and safety following the pandemic. It can be tricky getting used to new rules and regulations, and seem harsh if these rules lack any leniency. Many of course worry about getting sick and getting COVID-19 after reentering the workplace.

What can we do before going on leave?

There are ways this transition can be made less daunting, ready for when you do return to work. Likewise, it is important to not have to worry about work whilst away from your desk. So here are some tips to try before having time off:

  • Before leaving, ensure your workplace is tidy. Returning to a messy workspace is disheartening and gives you more things to do on your first day back!
  • Out of office’ email. This shows when you are uncontactable and avoids any confusions regarding a lack of response.
  • Put the dates you are away in your work calendar. If your calendar is shared with others, this can be particularly important. It helps make it clear to to others when you are reachable, when conversations need to be left for when you are back, and when tasks need to be actioned without you (if you’re away for a longer period).
  • Mute emails and work notifications. Setting these boundaries between you and work is important to maintain a healthy work relationship and ethic.

What can we do when going back to work?

  • Ease into returning. Spend a day getting back into the swing of things, catching up with colleagues, refamiliarise yourself with any projects. Avoid giving yourself a long list of things to do on your first days back, even though it is tempting.
  • Mentally and emotionally go easy on yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Regularly remind yourself it is the first few days back, and you can’t do everything in one go. In this case, positive self-talk is really important. (e.g. ‘I’ll get used to the routine soon.’, ‘I’ve gone through all my emails which is a great start.’).
  • Compartmentalise time to do certain things. Going into the first week/couple of days with a plan can help. Designate time for tasks, and start with simplest first. E.g. go through emails, refamiliarise with your calendar.
  • Communicate with either colleagues or your boss. If you are really struggling with your mental health or to catch up, discuss this with your supervisor or HR team. Sometimes just chatting to colleagues about how you feel being back can help you feel better and make them feel better too!

How can Brighter Life Therapy help?

Sometimes techniques are not quite enough, and professional interventions are needed instead. We find this is particularly true for those already struggling with their mental health. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and counselling are common ways to tackle these issues with professional help. Brighter Life Therapy provides fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

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