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Feeling anxious about returning to the office is expected, mental health experts say

Virus Outbreak
Posted at 8:40 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 14:15:01-04

Some companies are laying out their plans to return to work in person. For example, Microsoft is giving employees in Seattle the option to return to the office starting next week.

However, some people may experience anxiety just thinking about returning to the workplace. Mental health experts say that concern is completely justified and it should not be seen as a phobia.

“What we need to realize is that for many individuals, like those with pre-existing conditions or other factors that would put them in increased risk of severe outcomes or possibly death due to the coronavirus, this concern is not disproportionate,” said Dr. Marney White at the Yale School of Public Health.

Studies have shown that any type of change, even if it's positive, can cause us to feel stressed, and that's normal. However, as more people get vaccinated, it's likely our stress and anxiety levels will go down.

Some people may still have some reservations about returning to work. Dr. White says employers can help workers feel more comfortable by setting safety guidelines regarding mask wearing and social distancing.

People can also start taking steps to lower that stress. Dr. White says, in general, when experiencing any type of anxiety, people are advised to "gradually" expose themselves to whatever they're fearing.

“To begin leaving their homes to go for a walk, if possible, while wearing a mask, then they might get together with somebody else outside their home who has also been vaccinated, again, wearing a mask. And just take these small, gradual steps, towards a return to normal,” said Dr. White.

It would also be helpful to think about the benefits of returning to work. That can include getting support from colleagues or being able to have time to yourself during that morning and evening commute.