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MI counselor: Tips for managing return-to-work stress

Young adult woman entering office wearing face mask
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Young adult woman entering office wearing face mask looking off camera

More and more workplaces across Michigan are bringing employees back into the office in-person, and health experts have tips for how to manage any stress and anxiety the transition may bring.

Kris Henderson, a counselor at Counseling Solutions of West Michigan, said major life changes can often be stress triggers, and recommended acknowledging your feelings and trying to focus on the positives.

Henderson acknowledged while working from home did have its benefits, working in the office often leads to more social interaction, creativity and collaboration.

"Check your breathing, and people often dismiss the idea of deep breathing and how it can really help to reduce some anxious feelings," Henderson advised. "Make sure your work area has some anxiety relief toys, like fidget toys or stress balls."

About half of respondents to an American Psychological Association survey reported being uneasy about returning to in-person interactions.

Henderson noted practicing self-care, including getting good sleep, eating nutritious foods and moving your body, can improve physical and emotional health.

Dr. Nicole Brady, chief medical officer for United HealthCare employer and individual for Wisconsin and Michigan, said fears around catching COVID at the office are another trigger for stress. She recommended having an open line of communication with your employer about what protocols are in place to prevent spreading the virus.

"We all know that masks are effective and certainly are reasonable at any time, despite what the levels may be in your community at that time," Brady stressed. "We know that vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection."

Some employers can opt to stagger work hours or increase the distance between workspaces, to reduce possible viral spread in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended workers experiencing COVID symptoms notify their supervisors, get tested and stay home until they feel better.

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