With COVID-19, there is still a lot of anxiety about returning to work environments for all of us – and that’s IF there is even a job to return to right now.
Ongoing changes to virus contagion info; seeing our premier adjusting what we can and can’t do practically weekly; and very outspoken conspiracy theories floating around in our communities and social media – our professional world has become challenging enough to make anyone want to pull their hair out or never get out of bed..
In a recent interview with the College of Early Childhood Educators, I shared a tool to help educators return to the classroom and I’m sharing it again to apply to your own career field too --
because first and foremost it's about coping with anxiety: the unknown, the threat, the fear - and that dear readers,
is not profession exclusive.
Anxiety happens when the brain can’t solve how to fully protect us from threat. It fires up our nervous systems with painful, intrusive thoughts and feelings about many potentially negative outcomes. This means service providers, helping professionals and public servants - all heavily exposed to the general population -- are on high alert when going back to work.
Adapted from Marsha Linehan’s DBT skills set called Plan Ahead – this concept can be modified to suit you by preparing for the anxiety you can anticipate in advance! Here’s how it works:
Plan to Learn - Facts defuse anxiety! Study inside and out, the new safety protocols between yourself, your colleagues and customers, clients or patients. Research the latest best practices to limit COVID-19 risk published by public health.
Plan to Rehearse- For a few moments, visualize living out a typical work day with all the new protocols in place. How will each part look and feel to you?
Notice when you come to a tender spot - that top of mind, hypothetical situation already stressing you out. That scenario already making your heart race, or breathing change with a flurry of “what if” /worst case thoughts. Commit these spots to memory for the next step.
Plan to Breathe - Tender spots are inevitable! Temperature cools the anxiety furnace. Prepare a few cold water bottles to have at arms length as you move through your day. Use to drink, hold on the back of your neck, wrists or elbows creases. I sneak them in work fridges or freezers or in my lunch cooler bag when I know a heavy day is ahead. 6). Repeat. There’s no wrong way to do it. Mix it up by repeating a pre-planned mantra to match the breath. “I am.. Okay” or “This will.. Be fine” or “It is.. What it is”.
Plan to Chill - Use Cold Water! Temperature cools the anxiety furnace. Prepare a few cold water bottles to discreetly have at arms length as you move through your day. Use to drink, hold on the back of your neck, wrists or elbows creases. I sneak them in work fridges or freezers or in my lunch cooler bag when I know a heavy day is ahead.
Plan to Protect - Double up on safety for yourself, it’s the ONE THING you have some control over.
Add your own personal precaution steps in the mix before, during and after the work day. I’ve got some in my car, my purse and right at the front door of our home – plus extra masks in the glove box.
Plan to Create - Anxiety hates fun! So try to force the intensity down a notch by adding a little creative flare to mix - I’m thinking: bright coloured or character mask; decorating the hand sanitizer; planning a social distanced picnic lunch with co-workers; coffee break in the parking lot parked next to each other. The possibilities are as big as your imagination.
Hi I’m Nadine, a 40-something registered psychotherapist. I’ve been in counselling, social work and mental health fields for 14 years. My background is community mental health and university settings. Today I focus on adults in helping and service professions. Together we work to improve well-being - be it with mood; shifting negative patterns; fostering deep healing; improving stamina; or defining personal truth. Willow Rock Wellness is my counselling clinic and all therapy is online or by phone. You can also find me on my pages at: Facebook or LinkedIn