Coping With Stress at Work and Returning to Work

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As we emerge, hopefully, from the horrible year that gave us the covid pandemic it’s easy to forget that we’ve come through a lot. As things start to return to “normal” and offices and shops fill up again (well….possibly) its easy to get a bit nervous and about meeting up with people again so I thought I’d write an article about coping with stress at work and returning to work.


So What is Stress?

Stress is what happens to us when we feel as if we are under too much mental or emotional pressure. When we find ourselves being stressed our bodies release hormones designed to help us such as adrenaline and cortisol.

The boost of adrenaline helps us cope with the pressure and is sometimes referred to the “fight or flight” response – from when we used to hunt animals, so that if we felt danger we could either fight or run away from it. the stress hormone levels would return to normal once the stress has passed.

Stress in small amounts can be good for you, it heightens your reactions, making you quicker and will motivate you to take action. But if you think of the “fight or flight” scenario again, being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger wouldn’t last very long (either way) and so your stress hormone levels would go back down again if you managed to escape and hide for example. Its only now, in modern society that we are exposed to extended periods of stress with work and these can cause negative issues such as mood changes and physical changes too.

What are the Main Signs of Someone Being Stressed?

Stress affects people in many ways. Some people don’t appear to get stressed at all (or get better at hiding it) and some people get stressed easily. It will, of course, depend on the individual, but I’ll list out some more common signs of stress so that you can get a good idea – most people will show some of these signs if they are stressed – but this list is not exhaustive therefore some people may display symptoms which I have not listed.

The signs of stress can be split into different categories which can be either physical symptoms which you would be able to see, behavioral symptoms and also mental symptoms which may be harder to spot.

Physical symptoms include:

Dry Mouth Fast Heartbeat Feeling Dizzy Headaches Short of Breath Muscle Tension or Pain Sweating

Sexual problems Feeling Tired Stomach Problems

Mental symptoms include:

Lack of Concentration Feeling Irritable Being Forgetful Making Mistakes Racing Thoughts Feeling Low

Worrying About the Future or Past Imagining the Worst Going Over and Over Things in Your Mind

Behavioural symptoms include:

Becoming Very Emotional Eating More or Less Biting Your Nails Insomnia Drinking or Smoking More

Being Irritable Rushing Tasks Avoiding Company Being Snappy

Tackle The Sources of Stress

So this article is specifically focusing on becoming stressed about work and, following the pandemic, returning to work. So what should I do?

Well there are a number of ways you can help yourself in overcoming the symptoms of stress. If you are feeling stressed instressed at work particular about returning to the office following an extended period of home working then the best way is to talk to someone. The best person would be your immediate supervisor or an HR representative. You may, of course, prefer to talk to someone who doesn’t know you rather than someone who you think may prejudge you.

A problem shared is a problem halved was a saying of my parents and it still makes sense today. Just the act of telling someone you trust your source of stress will help and they should be supportive.

If at all possible see, if your boss (or an HR representative who can organise) is willing to take in stages so that going back to work in the office is not an all or nothing scenario. A lot of companies are promising hybrid working so spending two or three days a week in the office with the other days being worked at home. They may be able to slow down the speed of the transition so you could start off with one day a week back in the office. Once you become comfortable with one day then possible transition to two or three in line with the office policy.

Some places, of course, have already stated that they will not be returning to the office any time soon and if your company is not amongst those then perhaps its time to start looking at a move to a company that does support flexible working or indeed a company that works exclusively remotely (I did a number of articles on finding companies that offer remote work and also how you can start making money from home that you can find HERE)

Some Other Ways of Reducing Stress

If the main reason for being stressed is thinking about having to return to the office then speaking to someone at work who is in a position to help is definitely the way forward, however there are other things you can do to lower your stress levels and make your life less stressful.

Making some changes to your lifestyle can have a huge influence on your stress levels:

Exercise – a great stress reliever – not only does exercise lower your stress levels but it helps you stay healthy which in turn lowers stress levels as well. If you’re not used to exercise then start off easy with some walking or swimming if you want to visiting a gym to get some advice. Of course gardening and housework all count as exercise so there’s no excuse not to exercise – you will feel better for it if you continue to add it as a regular activity.

Getting Enough Sleep – being stressed will possibly affect the amount and quality of sleep you will get. There is nothing worse than lying awake at 2 or 3 in the morning with your mind racing, worrying about things! Not getting enough sleep is self-perpetuating as it means the following day you will be tired, have poor concentration, and maybe even be a bit moody. This creates more stress and so the cycle continues. If this continues on for the longer term it could lead to anxiety and depression. Try talking to your doctor if its becoming a trend rather than the odd occasion.

Eating a Balanced Diet – food is another factor in helping to keep our stress levels down. Eating a varied and balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure your getting sufficient nutrients and good for both your mental and physical health.

Relaxation – this can help you deal with stress – think meditation, aromatherapy or yoga. (my last article was about the relaxation benefits of incense – HERE and I also did an article on the benefits of yoga – HERE)

Limiting Caffeine – caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate and a lot of energy drinks so if you think you are drinking too much of them, or eating too much chocolate then maybe its time to look at limiting your intake. These days you don’t have to cut them out but look out for caffeine free options. Try to limit caffeine intake later in the evening as this may not help you getting quality sleep.

So there we have it. If you are feeling at all stressed out by the thought of returning to the office then I know from personal experience that you are not alone. But, speaking to your boss or a trusted colleague early on will help. You never know, there are probably a lot of people in your company in the same position and who don’t want to speak out. You speaking out about it may result in management having a rethink.

There is bound to be conflict in the coming months with the easing of restrictions and a workforce who have been working remotely for over a year now. Although sudden last year, a lot of people have become used to, and most now prefer, working at home to spending a lot of time commuting and it will be interesting to see how management in these companies tackle peoples reluctance to return to that life.

How are you dealing with the thought of returning to work? do you know what the plans for your office are and if you do, are you happy with them? I would love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comments below.

In the meantime, please as ever, take care,



Simple wfh

2 thoughts on “Coping With Stress at Work and Returning to Work”

  1. Hi Dave, this is a really good and timely article. Many people are struggling with going back to work. Even if we are looking forward to returning to the office, there will be an adjustment period. Stress is almost guaranteed in most situations. Your article is very helpful in explaining stress and in providing ways to deal with it. I myself, will be sure to implement some of your strategies to deal with stress. I should probably start will lowering my caffeine intake.

    • Hi Anna,

      thanks for your comments. I’m right there with you as I’m the worlds worst for just reaching for a coffee as soon as I get up and then its a continuous stream after that. Trying to replace that first cup with a glass of water will be a start and I’m trying to do that. 

      Its going to be hard for a lot of people to get back into the swing of work and socialising and all that entails. I’m hoping everyone is prepared for a rough few months as we try and get back to some sort of normal again. I’m definitely hoping that employers are willing to initiate a hybrid set up for their employees who have worked so hard given the circumstances.

      fingers crossed. 

      Take care,



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