Whether you’re coming back from parental leave, an extended leave of absence, or have been working from home, you can use this guide to protect your mental health as you head back to work.

Let’s face it: Going back to the office is a big transition 

The day has finally come for you to return to the office. The thought of preparing for the great return might be a little daunting. You may feel out of practice with small talk or anxious about changing your routine. Everyone is different, and some may require more time to adjust. That’s okay — this checklist can help you prepare for this transition with confidence.

Follow these steps to create a new norm that works for you: 

3 weeks out: Get emotionally centered. 

  • Make time to process your feelings, understand your expectations, and create achievable goals. Continue to reflect on your feelings throughout the week, and be patient with yourself.

2 weeks out: Set yourself up for success by sharing your needs and boundaries with the people in your life. 

  • Let your people know how you are preparing for the return and what you need from them in order to make the transition smooth. This can include anything from working out childcare and pet sitting to meal planning and commuting schedules. 

1 week out: Start to acclimate to your work sleep schedule.  

  • Any shift in our sleep schedule can cause added anxiety as we acclimate to our new normal. Sleep is imperative to our daily functioning — mentally, physically, and emotionally. If possible, take time to settle into your back-to-work sleep schedule, which includes factoring in things like commuting. 

5 days out: Schedule self care and prioritize your wellbeing. 

  • This is a big one — try to do what makes you feel good. Spend time outside with the family, go for a walk, attend a yoga class, or go out for your favorite meal. Making time for activities that help you relax, even just a little, is important. 

2 days out: Take time to mentally prep and practice self-compassion in these next few days. 

  • Recognize that everyone responds uniquely to stressors and changes in their lives. Remember that emotions are an important part of being human and provide a way for energy to move through our bodies. Be gentle with yourself. 

1st day back: Take it slow by taking breaks.

  • As your familiar routine fades away, keep in mind what worked well for you before, to create a new rhythm that fits. Set reminders to stretch, go for a walk, drink water, or have a snack.  
  • You may miss your family, feel a little socially awkward, or miss the comfort of home. Take a break to honor your feelings and reflect without judgment. 

1 week back and beyond: Check in with yourself, and seek support if you need it. 

  • Schedule time each week for a check-in with yourself on your progress. Repeated practices like these can help our brains readjust to change over time. 
  • Ask for what you need from the people who are capable of providing. If you need help with managing your anxiety brought on by returning to work, consider seeking help – from someone you trust, a therapist, or by trying Daylight.

You’ve got this

Transitions can be tough. If you’re feeling anxious about returning to work, know that you are not alone. Be good to yourself by taking care of yourself. 

Daylight was developed by clinical psychologists and researchers who’ve spent decades studying anxiety. In just 10 minutes per day, you’ll build life-long skills to reduce tension, re-frame anxious thoughts, and develop helpful behaviors. 

Daylight is available as an adjunct to usual medical care for generalized anxiety disorder for adults ages 18 and older, without FDA review under their COVID-19 policy

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