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How to manage back-to-work anxiety with Dr Robin Hart

Dr Robin Hart shares his tips and tools for the "new normal", and the transition back to the workplace.

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Heights
April 15, 2021
4 min read

Dr. Robin Hart wants us to return to work gently. The acclaimed psychotherapist has spent his career identifying new treatments for anxiety disorders and depression. He's practiced everywhere from primary care to Wormwood Scrubs Prison and now he's turning his attention to workplace anxiety.

Today, Dr Hart discusses the importance of structure and routine for mental health, the lockdown factors that have impacted us the most, and why the pandemic might help us to finally destigmatise mental wellbeing within the workplace.

You can listen to the episode here

Top 3 tips for back-to-work anxiety

  1. Take it one day at a time. We’ll all be under a lot of pressure from friends and family to get back out there. It will be scary, so take your time. 

  2. Make yourself aware of managing health risks so that you feel safer. This will ensure that external environments won’t constantly scare you. 

  3. Implement anxiety management techniques in your daily routine.

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Throughout this stressful year, Dr Robin realised that a person’s ability to cope with the pandemic is dependant on personality, occupation, living location, and quality of life. These factors determine whether you hated or embraced this new way of living brought on by COVID-19.

For example, in the UK, flat-sharing is a popular alternative to living on your own. The millions of young people who chose to flat share on the basis that they were out for 40+ hours a week, were at a loss when the pandemic struck. Suddenly, they found themselves trapped in a tiny space with multiple people, all of which needed space to work—uh-oh. 

These aspects of our lives, such as whether we flat-share, live alone, or stay with friends or family, were suddenly important in determining how we’d cope during frightening times. 

The main stressors 

Dr Robin found that these factors have caused the most anxiety:

  • The change or loss of structure and routine

  • What the future will bring post-pandemic

  • Whether or not we will ever return to ‘normal’ 

  • Social isolation

  • The lack of external stimulation

  • The inability to work with colleagues and/or friends 

Hope is one of the best antidepressants there is, but it doesn’t come in a bottle. 

Has everyone struggled? 

Some people have liked the isolation. These people likely struggled pre-pandemic, with getting out and about. If you’re this kind of person, you may realize that for the past year, working on your own has suited you. However, you may now be panicking as the possibility of having to return back to the workplace creeps up. This is due to the underlying and unsolved problem of social anxiety and the desire to withdraw. 

Stress and anxiety management

As we move from lockdown towards a full-functioning “new normal” you need to take care and prepare yourself.

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation, more on this here

  • Practice breathwork. Your breath has the power to make your nervous system work for you rather than against you. Try out a breathwork exercise here.   

  • Structure your work hours. We’re likely going to transition into part-time remote work. With this, you run the risk of working way longer than you should be. By structuring your day, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

What have we learned? 

Prior to the pandemic, there was lack of awareness or empathy for emotions. We’ve learned that mental wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of everything. The fact that people function less well under certain circumstances needs to be de-stigmatised. Normalising mental health at work will allow people to access the support they need to help them function better. 

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