Going back to work after lockdown will have it’s challenges for sure. Because there’s a tendency in life to cling to the familiar, to feel safe and secure, change can feel threatening. Are there steps we can take to feel more in control and stress free after lockdown?
Read on for some suggestions on how to make your re-integration as stress free and smooth as possible.
Indeed let’s also remember, that whilst the more extrovert among us may be excited at the prospect of returning to work and re-engaging with an audience, other’s may well
dread the return to work for that very reason! Just the act of interacting with gregarious
colleagues can be draining, anxiety provoking and far from stress-free for those with more introvert tendencies.
Rather than worrying about what might happen, aim instead, to discover how to ring fence yourself and reduce the risk to your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Write a personal risk assessment and find stress-free solutions for your particular situation. Have a look at some of my suggestions below
You may wonder, can there be certainty in such uncertain times?
Perhaps a level of acceptance is a better state to aim for than a sense of certainty because we are in a state of flux and futures are uncertain for many of us.
Yet the fact remains, we want to feel in control and there is so much in life that we have no control over, the sooner we accept this, become flexible and adapt, the less stressful life will be.
How can we handle the stress of not having control? In this link I explain the Circle of Influence and Circle of Control a tool that facilitates the discovery of personal ways to feel empowered and stress-free.
In fact, something as simple as learning a gentle breathing technique can quell a rising panic allowing you to regain self-control in the middle of a meeting or on the train going to work.
Before returning to work make a list of some of the things you are in control of.
Below are some tips about how to stay stress free after lockdown.
1. Consistent Clear Communication
This might be expressing to your line manager/supervisor/boss that you’re struggling with an aspect of the return to work. If you find it difficult to verbalise, write a private and confidential email outlining your concerns.
Likewise where possible, suggest one or two solutions to the problem you’ve identified, such as split working from home/office. Changing hours or asking for clarity on the troubling issue.
This way you take both the problem and the solution to your boss, who may also be struggling with issues.
2. Listen to yourself first
Your body will give you very clear signals of discomfort and distress if you tune-in and listen.
Try this, a minimum of 5 minutes quiet time each day can be enough to pick up on a tightened chest, or a churning stomach. If your body is light and buoyant all is well. Feelings of heaviness, constriction are not good signs, what do you think that’s telling you?
Pay attention to these feelings and aim to explore and address the issue causing these problems, talk them through with a trusted friend, colleague or engage a therapist or coach.
We know that there is a global collective grieving at this time but what we don’t know is who is grieving, or what or whom has been lost. It could be a loved one, a job or an income. Never has there been more of a need for kindness, compassion and understanding.
3. Listen and be prepared for emotion
Besides listening, know that we can’t fix other people’s stuff so don’t even try! What you can do is offer people time and space to listen, really listen and it’s one of the kindest gifts we can give another. Even identical twins suffering the same loss will experience their bereavement differently, so we should never presume to know what someone is feeling or when.
It’s much easier to ask them, “How are you?” and then listen, you may pick up the signal immediately that they do not want to talk about it or maybe if you stay quiet for just that tiny bit longer, they will share something with you.
Again, prepare yourself to be uncomfortably comfortable in the face of emotion. People who you least expect to be emotional may break down and cry in your presence. Be with them, hold the space for them and resist the temptation to hand them tissues, put an arm around them or placate them with platitudes.
Consequently they are more likely to benefit and recover quickly if you don’t react in this way. That’s empathy and compassion and can help them enormously.
4. Find Your Balance
Aim for balance and work out how you can achieve that? What do you need to do to re-energise? Do you need to stop and give yourself a short break to move around for example? Are you the type of person who needs to eat a little and often to keep your energy high? Are you sipping any water regularly? Is your head feeling hot? Perhaps you need to take the EarPods out of your ears to give them a rest.
Make a list of resources you need to keep with you to help you to feel balanced and in control.
5. Ask yourself good quality questions
“What do I want. What do I need to feel more balanced now?” Listen to your response, that’s your prescription, your wisdom so why not take your own advice!
6. Work Smarter
Because many people will be returning to a backlog of work and since multi-tasking has been debunked, avoid that! Instead aim to spend longer at the outset and create a clear plan of action.
Besides prioritising tasks with a simple A,B,C,D method which will quickly provide order, you’ll also have a more realistic view of your workload. This will give you greater sense of control. You will also be in a better position to manage your expectations and communicate your position to colleagues or staff.
7. Set Realistic Goals
In addition to creating a schedule of work, aim to set small pragmatic goals. In your planning phase work out roughly how long each task will take, block that time out in your diary/calendar with the time span. This keeps goals realistic, also schedule in short breaks, to stand up and stretch, have a comfort break or a drink.
As a result of utilising steps 6 and 7 you offer yourself an opportunity to validate your efforts and recognise your achievements. In this way you’re not waiting around for someone else to pat you on the back. Say ‘Well done” and reward your good behaviour with a treat. A luxurious bath, a walk with a friend or carving out some time to read a book.
8. It’s OK to say No
Furthermore practice saying a good, clear No try saying it out loud now! You can be pleasant but firm when you say No. “No, I already have more than I can realistically handle” No I simply do not have the available time. No, it’s not my responsibility, I cannot take that on” Get used to that word in your mouth and throat.
In fact I often have clients’ practice saying No in front of a mirror in as many different tones and volumes as possible. Add to this good body language, such as a firm hand extended away from your chest with a big “No” should you need to communicate your position more clearly, will speak volumes.
9. Connect At Your Own Pace
You’re either itching to get back out with friends and family or feel the need to connect slowly.
First it’s your business is to know what you want and need. Secondly negotiate with yourself to establish what feels right and manageable for you. Thirdly practice out loud explaining to your friends and family how you need to proceed and see how you can arrive at a workable compromise between their expectations and yours.
10. Recognition And Validation
Finally, Be Your Own Cheerleader. Just be kind and loving to yourself. You will get the best from yourself by being supportive and gently encouraging. Watch out for the inner critic, sack your ‘Judge’ and pump up the volume on your balanced assertive adult self!
There is no ‘right’ way to do this only the way that is right for you, so aim to honour and respect your needs and keep your communication honest clear and consistent.