Some people will find returning to work more difficult than others, says Dr Grace.

Anxious about coronavirus restrictions easing? You’re not alone

May 28, 2020 BY

With more people returning to work and rekindling their social lives as coronavirus pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted, a Torquay based psychologist says it’s important to acknowledge this will be easier for some than others.

Caitlin Grace from Surf Coast Mind Body Health said because many people had navigated feelings of fear and uncertainty throughout the pandemic, transitioning back into routine was likely to be different for everybody.

“Some people may find that as a consequence of the restrictions and having had to work to manage their overall wellbeing during them, their ability to cope with stressors has well and truly been tested.

“We can come through the other side of a crisis or major life event feeling a little ‘battle-weary’. The idea of adding an additional stressor (such as a return to the workplace) to the current burden can naturally incur a good deal of worry or anxiety.”

She said signs of work-related anxiety or anxiety in general could be presented in a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours and body.

She also highlighted some people might recognise their thinking to be negatively biased or unhelpful when the topic of returning to work is raised.

“You may notice you are carrying feelings of apprehension, worry and fear around returning to work.

“You may be able to identify how you’re experiencing this stress in your body, whether it be signs of tension, hypervigilance, fatigue, changes in your heart rate and breath, or changes in your appetite, to name a few.

“Lastly, you may be able to recognise changes in your overall tolerance levels, ability to manage your daily activities, thinking capacity, decision making and general wellbeing.”

Dr Grace said most people returning to work would also experience varying nerves triggered by social engagement.

She said for some, the level of anxiety experienced could result in withdrawal from or total avoidance of physical social contact.

“Coming out of the restrictions, it’s important to think of social skills like flexing a muscle – the more we do it, the better we become.

“Start small, be gentle with yourself, acknowledge it is challenging to get back into it after a break, and expect some nerves.

“With practice, your social confidence and skills will return – and remember, often the anticipation of social engagement is worse than the engagement itself.”

Dr Grace encouraged people to monitor their feelings and emotions as the restrictions ease.

“The first step is taking the time to bring your awareness to what’s going on for you. Cultivating the practice of checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling, what is going on in your body, and how you are thinking across the day is a great strategy to start recognising and attending to your anxiety.

“Take deliberate steps to help regulate your system during times of stress through practices such as grounding and soothing, which promote calm and safety in your body.

“Where possible, see if you can create some distance from your immediate reaction before you respond.

“Check your interpretation – is there a different perspective you can take? Is there a more balanced way to view the situation? And above all, be gentle with yourself and your body.”

Dr Grace said if a person’s anxiety is affecting their functioning or ability to go about their daily living, it’s a good time to seek help.

She recommended people consider getting access to the Medicare Better Access to Mental Health scheme, which provides a Medicare rebate for 10 psychological intervention sessions in the calendar year.

“Your GP can complete a mental health care plan and assist with a referral to a psychologist or provide information around other ways to access support.

“Outside of the Medicare scheme, you can self-refer privately, and many private health funds offer rebates for support services.

“There are some great resources online (Beyond Blue), and check with your private health provider as many funds are offering mental health support during this time (i.e. Bupa and This Way Up access).

“Mental health vulnerabilities in response to a major life event such as this pandemic are normal and very much treatable.”

If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or head to beyondblue.org.au.