COVID 19: tips for tackling return to work anxiety

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Health Assured team

13 August 2021

COVID-19 came and turned the world of work upside down. The once rare home-working set-up was adopted overnight, with many workers still yet to return to normality. Returning to work after COVID-19 can be daunting. If you’re worried about it—you’re not alone.

You might have spent months adapting to a new routine, only to go back to where it all began. Life adjustments and uncertainties can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety. Plus, COVID restrictions are still hindering work environments across the country. So this can make the transition feel even tougher.

If you’ve been struggling to transition back into work-life, or you’re apprehensive about returning to work, there are steps you can take to regain equilibrium in your life.

Symptoms of return to work anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety can be different from person to person. It can be hard to become aware that you’ve been pulled into feelings of anxiety. But spotting the symptoms when they appear is the first step to regaining control. These symptoms can be physical, mental or emotional. Here are some key signs to look out for:

· Shaking

· Breathlessness

· Feeling hot

· Headaches

· Chest pains

· Feeling tense or nervous

· Being unable to relax

· Worrying about the past or future

· Fear of the worst happening

· Obsessive thoughts

· Changes in behaviour

· Worrying about trying new things

· Not enjoying things you normally do

· Avoiding places or situations that create anxiety

If you’ve spotted any of these signs, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to regain balance and control. Remember you’re not alone. The steps below will help you to act against anxiety in the moment and create a prevention plan for the long term.

How to act against anxiety in the moment

The grips of anxiety can be daunting. If you’ve been suffering from any symptoms mentioned above—it’s a good idea to have coping mechanisms in place. What works for one person might not work as well for another. Try the suggestions below and see what works for you.

Box breathing

Breathing exercises can slow your heart rate down. If you’re in a state of anxiety or panic, this can be crucial. When you return to work, you might feel overwhelmed by the change of routine. If you find yourself worked up with emotion, don’t overcomplicate things. Try the simple yet effective box breathing exercise below:

· Slowly inhale for a count of four

· Hold your breath for a count of four

· Slowly exhale for a count of four

· Pause your breath for a count of four

Remember all you have to do, is focus on your breath.

This cycle regulates the autonomic nervous system, calms the mind and reduces stress. If you suffer from panic attacks, a few rounds of this exercise can bring you back down to a more relaxed state.

5-4-3-2-1 method

Mindfulness can ease anxiety in an instant. But when we’re in a state of panic, obsessive thoughts and what-if scenarios can cloud thinking. You can, however, become mindful in an instant by using your five senses:

Focus on five things you can see.

Four things you can hear.

Three things you can touch.

Two things you can smell.

One thing you can taste.

This method is an instant tension buster. It relieves fear and nervousness when you need it most.

Long-term tips to combat return to work anxiety

Keep up a daily routine

Getting back into the swing of things at work is easier when you already have a daily routine in place. Try to build a daily routine that you can stick to. Make it achievable and be as creative as you can be. Go to bed at a similar time every night and set an alarm for the same time every morning. This will get your body and mind ready for your new working schedule. Sleep also plays a factor in regulating your anxiety levels, so aim for around 6-9 hours each night. It’s important to schedule self-care time too. Whether it’s a walk, a relaxing bath or a chat with a friend—time to unwind is essential.

Healthy body, healthy mind

Oftentimes, anxieties can stem from feeling out of control. To combat these emotions, you can begin to take care of the things you can control. Feeling anxious or worked up about the prospect of a busy work schedule? Focus on improving your physical wellbeing. Think about the foods you eat. Nourishing your body with minerals and vitamins helps it function smoothly. It can also give your energy a boost and reduce fatigue.

Movement can increase mood and mental wellbeing too. It can help to channel anxious emotions and release any tension your body might be holding. Next time work worries take over your mind, turn to exercise to soften your emotions. It helps to overcome negative states and adapt to drastic changes in your day-to-day life.


Remember that it takes time to adjust to new ways of working. Acceptance can help soften the impact of change. Relax your muscles and welcome the changes where you can. This will help you to be more flexible and take on future challenges with ease.

For more information on managing anxiety, get in touch with Health Assured. We’re you’re healthy advantage:

UK: 0844 891 0354

ROI: 01 886 0324

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