As some of the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lift, and some people cautiously begin to return to their work environments, we are tasked with the job of managing yet another period of transition. It is the transition from the safety and predictability of our quarantined home environments to the uncertainty and potential risks of the outside world. It’s the transition from the daily routines and practices that we have established while sheltering in place, to the new routines and practices that involve people and things outside of the home.
Even if you are still working from home, you are probably in transition. You and members of your family may now be interacting more with the world at large by venturing out to see friends, visit stores, go to restaurants, travel short distances, or participate in outdoor events.
Transitions can be tricky. They can bring up a range of feelings – from fear and anxiety to impatience and irritability. Transitions heighten our emotional reactions; they put us a little more on edge.
If, for example, you are returning to your office after several months away, just the thought of returning to your former work setting may set off both excitement and anxiety. If you see that one of your coworkers is less cautious than you are regarding social distancing, you may feel a flash of anger or fear. As you head to the office, you may experience a sense of dread – even though you know that your company is putting all of the necessary safety precautions in place.
Are you in transition? Are aspects of your home life and work life changing? If so, here are a few suggestions for how to manage emotional ups and downs that may come with change:
- Appreciate that change, even positive change, is disruptive.
As difficult as the past few months have been, you managed to carve out a routine and to establish new patterns of living. Now, you have to change the mix of activities again. It may be great to expand your world, but stressful at the same time.
- Do things to help yourself calm down and cool off.
Releasing pent up energy through exercise, walking, dancing, working out, biking, etc., remains one of the best self-care things you can do, but it’s especially valuable during times of transition. If you have an exercise routine, stick to it. If not, consider developing some kind of physical outlet to calm your nerves and lower your emotional temperature.
- Decide which healthy routines you want to keep in place.
You may have developed some good habits over the past few months. Better eating, more family time, shorter workdays, time for hobbies. As you transition out of sheltering in place, retain the routines that you value. It will help you feel a greater sense of comfort and control.
As you consider re-entering your former work environment, your mind will be working double time preparing for and planning your next steps. Your body and brain will benefit if you commit to getting plenty of sleep (if possible), and finding time to unwind at the end of the day.
Managing transitions during normal times can be challenging. During these unpredictable times, changing your working and living patterns may be both welcome and stressful. Give yourself credit for being in transition, and take care of your mind and body as you move forward.
Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.
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