After nearly four months of Sydney lockdown 2.0, I’m worried about heading back into the office. Well, to be more specific, I’m worried about heading into the office — no ‘back’ as I started my job during lockdown.
And while I’ve met a few colleagues in-person by chance in the street, recognising each other from Zoom calls (cue a very awkward staring session and a “Are you [insert colleague name?”), I’ve yet to spend a significant amount of time with anyone I work with. And that makes me nervous.
What if they don’t like me? Not to mention — what if I find the commute coupled with the workday exhausting? What if I’m accidentally irritable because of it? I’ve always struggled to eat at normal meal times — what if my colleagues judge me for my mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks?
I know I’m not alone in feeling this overwhelm and barrage of thoughts. Sydney-based life coach Phi Dang attributes this to three things. Firstly, adjusting to a new normal. “Naturally, change and transitions spike our anxiety as from an evolutionary perspective, we are wired to be adverse to danger,” she says.
Secondly, the overwhelm can be attributed to the thought of a lot of new stimulation after doing the same thing over and over again. And finally, ironically, we might fear a loss of freedom and be afraid to go back to the daily hustle and grind.
So, what can we do about it? Dang says it’s all about changing your mindset.
“We have over 60,000 thoughts a day and they shape our perspective and experience of the world,” she says. “As a result of our thoughts, we feel a certain way and act a certain way. If you think about it, everything in this world is neutral, however, our mind labels something as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.”
She gives the example of rain, which we can either see as positive — naturally watering our plants or causing us to stay indoors on the weekends and not feel guilty about it — or negative — ruining our picnic plans. Rain itself is a neutral event, but we can choose to see it as either positive or negative.
Ahead, Dang outlines four ways we change our mindset to help us better adapt to returning to the office.
Become Aware of Your Thoughts
Get off autopilot and be here in the present moment. Observe your thoughts rather than believing them immediately (journalling is very handy here). You can do this by setting aside time before your workday or after it to create space in your day — moments of silence and stillness where you can observe your thoughts.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed during work, go for a walk or find a quiet place in the office. During these moments of stillness, try to breathe consciously, paying attention to what you can hear, touch, smell, see and taste.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
When we can appreciate what we have, such as an office to go to, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, like the full-time WFH situation we once had, we can bring about greater joy in our lives. You can easily practise gratitude by writing down three things you’re grateful for every day or even by thinking of three things every night before bed.
Some other helpful tips for practising gratitude include starting a dedicated gratitude diary, setting a daily reminder on your phone to practise gratitude or sharing your gratitude with others.
Don’t Let One Setback Colour Your Day
One moment’s shadow, like arriving late to work or getting an e-mail you consider to be short or rude, doesn’t need to define your whole day. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, instead of resisting them because your resist persists. It’s natural to encounter difficulties — if life were easy all the time, it would be boring.
Remember Energy Flows Where Your Focus Goes
While you are in the office, be clear about why you are doing a task. Otherwise, why are you doing it? Focus on what you can change versus what you can’t. In fact, this should always be your mindset as we can’t control anything outside of ourselves.