With each new safety measure put in place, and the world trying to get back to allowing us to return to what is being called the ‘new normal’, there is understandably concern and anxiety about returning to public spaces, such as work. Returning to normal after a long period of isolation is incredibly tough, but there are methods to help you make that transition back into your new normal. We chatted to our Sports Psychologist Christian Pszyk to get a few tips on the best ways to look after your mental health when returning to things like work in these challenging times.
As some of the lockdown rules are being relaxed and the prospect of returning to pre-Coronavirus normality comes into focus, there is a distinct feeling that ‘normal’ will be very different to what we are used to when returning to work, training or education. As such, the prospect of change and the increased challenge that will come with that can be daunting and has been linked to anxiety, low mood and increased stress. In addition, the return to commuting, spending less time with family and loved ones at home, and potentially coming off furlough all add an extra dimension of pressure commonly associated with scenarios such as starting a new job. However, there are certain tools and coping mechanisms that can be utilised to help to deal with this unique situation.
An essential part of facing any difficult situation in life, getting support in whichever format you feel most comfortable is a massive benefit. This can be in the shape of communicating with friends, family or colleagues, as most people are currently in the same position, and if not, can still provide an outlet to listen. In addition, this can be through online resources, such as the free NHS Mind Plan. This free quiz provides a wealth of resources and tips to help cope with Coronavirus, and the associated impact on work and daily life. If you still feel that you need more support, there is always clinical support through your GP, or accessing some of the numerous resources available including support groups and self-help guides.
One tool often used in sport psychology is visualisation, basically meaning that you imagine yourself in certain situations, with positive reinforcement brought in through previous experience, thoughts and self-talk. This can help to make us feel more comfortable about a new situation, such as returning to work or education following a long absence with a lot of potentially unsettling and challenging new additions. However, visualising yourself in that place, and functioning well, focusing on aspects that you can control and can rely on, can help to bring increased confidence, as well as helping to cope with anxiety and stress.
Using mindfulness can help to tackle a wide range of challenges, thoughts and feelings, and using this as part of your day to day life can help you to feel more in control and present. There are a wide range of apps, such as Headspace and Calm, and websites offering free and paid content, and finding one that suits your preferences can help to increase your willingness to use it and benefit from it.
One of the more obvious aspects to work on is your daily routine, including when you wake up, what you eat and even how you spend your free time. It can be very easy, especially when furloughed, to enjoy your time off and sleep in, and not take care of yourself in the way you normally would. And while this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help to refresh yourself and take a break from the stresses you would normally face, it will make the transition back into working life more difficult. Therefore, starting daily routines to include breakfast, leaving the house for a gentle stroll in the morning and just getting your body and mind more used to your typical work routine will help to make you feel more prepared.
The main thing to keep in mind is that these feelings, thoughts and emotions, in whichever capacity you are experiencing them, are normal and that opening up to friends, family or seeking external support does not make you weak. In fact, many of the people around you probably feel the same! In addition, using some of the tools discussed previously or searching for your own that suit you better, can help to assist in transitioning back to whatever shape normal might take over the coming months.