How to Manage Return to Work Anxiety

Trying to manage return to work anxiety, after months of COVID-19 isolation, can be a challenge. Although many essential workers like nurses, postal workers, and grocery clerks have worked throughout the pandemic, most workers were furloughed or worked from home. Now that many states have reopened, millions of workers must return to work despite the ongoing pandemic.

Returning to work after months of remaining at home can be stressful for anyone. Returning to work during a pandemic dials that stress up exponentially. It’s natural to feel fearful after spending months indoors, away from possible sources of infection. However, for most people, refusing to return to work is not an option. 

Tips on Managing Anxiety About Returning to Work 

For those who feel anxiety about returning to work, learning to cope is a priority. The following are five ways to help overcome anxiety about returning to work.

Take Workplace Precautions

It may feel as if becoming infected with COVID-19 is inevitable, but it’s not. Taking the right precautions can decrease your chances of getting COVID-19. The CDC provides guidelines on how employers and staff can decrease risk for infection. 

Avoid possible risk areas, like small enclosed common rooms like break rooms, if at all possible. Wear face masks and practice good hand hygiene. Remain 6 feet apart from others as much as possible. Don’t report to work if you are sneezing, coughing, or have a fever. Adhere to workplace temperature checks and other pandemic requirements. 

Taking workplace precautions keeps you, and everyone around you, safer from COVID-19. 

Deep Breathing

Masks help prevent the spread of infection. Unfortunately, wearing a face mask can heighten anxiety for some people, and also make it difficult to breathe. In many workplaces, however, masks are mandatory. Controlling anxiety while wearing a face mask can be difficult but practicing deep breathing can help. Taking the time to focus on breathing, slowly and deeply, can help overcome anxiety. 


Meditating before or after work, or even during work breaks, can help lower stress levels. There are numerous meditation apps to choose from and can be downloaded conveniently onto a smartphone. These meditation apps can guide you into a more relaxed state, allowing you to manage work anxiety.


Exercise is an excellent way to release pent up anxiety about work. It can also boost the immune system and help keep people fit through the pandemic. Even short activities, like a quick 15-minute walk or a bike ride can help manage anxiety. 

Taking Breaks and Going Outside

Taking full advantage of workplace breaks and leaving the work area can decrease anxiety. Allowing for time outdoors, even if it’s just standing on a balcony or sidewalk, can help manage anxiety about being at work. Resist the temptation to work through breaks and power through meals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Get Support and Assistance

If anxiety about returning to work is affecting work performance and relationships, it might be a good time to look for support. Getting help to manage anxiety can make returning to work easier. Many counselors and therapists participate in telehealth services, which means in-person appointments aren’t necessary. Instead, sessions can be performed through text, phone, or videoconferencing. Having an objective third party to talk to can make trying to manage return to work anxiety much easier. 

Another form of outside assistance is hypnosis. Recognized institutions, like the Mayo Clinic, recognize hypnosis as a legitimate intervention to help manage anxiety. Research studies and  literature reviews, like the one conducted in the 2010 Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, shows hypnosis as an effective way to manage anxiety. 

There are certified hypnotists who are available to help manage anxiety. Through hypnosis, a certified hypnotist can identify the memories or beliefs that make you afraid of returning to work. The certified hypnotist can then work to change how the mind deals with beliefs and help to reframe memories to work to a person’s advantage. Hypnosis is also available through pre-recorded audio downloads. These pre-recorded downloads can train the mind to respond differently to anxiety, allowing someone to overcome their limiting emotions. 

You Can Manage Return to Work Anxiety

By learning how to cope with the anxiety about returning to work, the workplace can become less frightening. Maintaining precautions, self-care, and obtaining support can help many manage the stress of working through the COVID-19 pandemic.