Advice From A Student Mental Health Nurse:  
How To Cope With Going Back To Work Post-Pandemic 
 
 
 
To mark World Mental Health Day we have some amazing advice from Georgie Ellmore-Jones, a student mental health nurse, on how to cope with going back to work post-pandemic and dealing with stressful working environments.  
 
Read her tips below on how to achieve a happier, healthier state of mind: 
 
I am by no means an expert in well-being at work and don’t claim to be, but with being both a student mental health nurse and someone who has worked in office jobs, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of how overwhelming it can feel at the moment as things return to ‘normal’. 
 
Pre-pandemic, it was widely accepted that office jobs were 9-5, Monday to Friday. That was of course unless there was a deadline or someone was off, then it would look more like an 8-7 situation. Most people didn’t think twice about leaving home for an hour+ commute early in the morning and doing the same back home. Everyone did it and unless you worked in healthcare, retail or leisure, chances are you did it, too. 
 
The pandemic came along and there was real hope that working might finally become more flexible. It was proved possible that most people with an internet connection and a laptop could do their work from the sofa and meetings were replaced with video calls. We all wondered if the pandemic would herald a new age in office work as we traditionally knew it. 
 
Unfortunately, for most people, the answer is no. In a recent study by the mental health charity Mind, it was found that the majority of people are unhappy at work and that 1 in 6 working people suffer from a common mental health problem. We have gone back to our pre-pandemic ways of office working, commuting and not taking breaks, all of which, inevitably, take their toll on how we’re feeling. 
 
So what can you do if office life is becoming too much and you’re once again yearning for those working from home days? I can’t provide you with all the answers to make your commute a breeze and improve your work/life balance but here are some things that helped me in the past that may help you get used to being back on the 9-5. 
 
Debrief 
 
As student nurses, we sometimes have a debrief at the end of a particularly hard shift. This is a great place to talk about what happened and check everyone is feeling alright before they go home. This is a really important tool for making sure we don’t take our work home with us and can draw the line under the day. If you are the kind of person that constantly worries about work or ends up replying to emails at home, why not try writing down (or using the notes app on your phone) all the things that are bothering you about work and make an action plan on how you’ll tackle those things tomorrow. Sometimes writing everything down can make it feel less overwhelming and it’s a good way to plan the next day so you’ve got an idea of what you need to do before you reach the office. This could be done on the commute home, when you get through the door or even before you leave your desk; just make sure you don’t spend more than ten minutes writing and when you have finished, make sure it marks the end of your workday. 
 
Go Offline 
 
I know this is definitely easier said than done in some jobs, but try not to reply to work-related emails or invites outside of office hours. This problem is a relatively modern one, as most of us have mobile phones where we are accessible 24 hours a day, but once you’re out of the office physically you are under no obligation to reply to emails until the next day. Most people respect they won’t get a reply until the next morning if they send an email at 17:03 and, unless it’s life or death, I’m sure it can wait a few hours. 
 
Interestingly, there is currently legislation under review in France and Germany for the ‘right to be offline’ meaning that office workers are set to be protected by law that would mean outside of office hours, their time belongs to them. Let’s hope that the law over here catches up soon! 
 
Break Up Your Day 
 
If you’re working in a city, you’ve probably got a lot of nice shops, places to eat and parks within a ten-minute walk of where you work. Why not make a plan to take your lunch out to the park or check out some of those shops that are usually closed when you finish work? Using your lunch hour as leisure time helps you reset and the day feels shorter- who doesn’t love being among nature or treating themselves? If you can do this during the workday, your mind will thank you later on when the afternoon rolls around. 
 
Allow Yourself To Feel Tired 
 
If you’re becoming increasingly frustrated as to why you feel so tired all the time, you aren’t alone. Many people are struggling with resuming normal life and that isn’t just down to the number of hours taken up by their work and the commute. There are so many other considerations that need to be taken into account when travelling to the office, such as preparing lunch the night before, choosing what to wear, meeting preparations and travelling, that it can all feel a bit overwhelming when you haven’t done it in a while. 
 
Further to this, after months of being around only family and close friends, many find it exhausting and overwhelming to be around crowds of people at stations and in an office full of people again. Allow yourself to be tired and take a break and remember that going back to the office will take some adjustment. So if skipping a night at the pub so you can read a book in your own company is what you need, don’t be afraid to do it. 
 
Reach Out 
 
My final tip is not to be afraid to speak to someone if you don’t feel like you can cope. The post-pandemic world is an adjustment period for everyone and employers will be taking into account the upheaval needed for many to come back to the office. Speak to your boss if you’re feeling overwhelmed and try and negotiate some days working from home if you feel that would help you, or speak to your GP if you are feeling low or anxious. 
 
Many people are feeling exactly the same as you and are there to help you. At the end of the day, happy employees mean good productivity so it is good for business if they make sure you are in an environment where you feel comfortable working. 
 
If you are struggling with any mental health issues, you are not alone. Reach out to family, friends, amazing charities such as Mind and Samaritans or even our friendly team, there are so many people who love and care about you and can offer you an ear so you can talk through your feelings and get the help you deserve to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.  
 
Please share this article online tagging @wearedigitalturtle with #PinItForMentalHealth, you never know who it may help! 💙 
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