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The Back-to-Work Jitters and How to Overcome Them

how to overcome back-to-work jitters

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

During lockdown, many of us welcomed the prospect of working at home, away from adverse office environments or toxic colleagues. Now that offices are opening up, we must grapple with those challenges and mixed emotions once again.

It may feel as though you aren’t ready to cope with complex office scenarios again. And it's okay to feel that way. If you’re in a position in which you must go back, it’s a good idea to prepare by building some resilience in your mind. Most of us weren’t born with some magical superpower to help in this area — it’s something we build over time, cultivated with enough patience.

Accept Your Present Situation

If your office has mandated a return to the workplace, there's not much you can do about it. Before your first day back, take some time to mentally prepare yourself that this is the way it is. If you have legitimate reasons that make it difficult to return, speak with your supervisor about a hybrid option or an extension of your work-from-home privileges.

Change the Way You Think About Your Colleagues

Some of your colleagues may seem like pests to you, especially those you have to be with every day. Rather than dwelling on their negative traits, try to see them as people who are struggling with their own battles and taking it out in the form of poor behavior

Plus, remember they aren't going to be around forever (no one is). Either you or they will eventually move on to something new, and your brief tenure together will become just a blip in time.

Believe in Your Capabilities

It's important to remind yourself of the unique talents and perspectives you bring to the table. Your employer couldn't do without you, and you should feel proud of that.

Whenever things seem especially hard at work, be it a supervisor's multiple follow-ups or a coworker's habit of constantly interrupting, remind yourself that you're here for a reason, one that's bigger than any of these daily niggles.

It can also help to remember a time when you were especially commended for your talents and efforts. Always look at the bigger picture and never forget your successes.

Create a List of Tasks to Find Your Ground

It's natural to feel sluggish your first few days back in the office after months of being comfortable at home. To get back in the groove, list some tasks that you can finish quickly and without much trouble. The satisfaction you receive from completing those tasks will boost your mood and motivate you for the tougher tasks.

Find Your Sense of Humor

Being able to find humor in situations is a real gift and one you deserve to give yourself. Laughter releases endorphins and dopamine (the feel-good chemical) and helps you see things positively enough to take action on them.

While it's understandably hard to find humor when you're in the middle of a tough spot, try to look back on it later and find some lighter moments to take away from it (along with important lessons for the future, of course).

Take Breaks

It can be exhausting to stay productive amid all the chaos. Instead of fighting that exhaustion, lean into it. Take short breaks whenever you need to and come back when you're ready.

Use those breaks to stroll around the office, refamiliarize yourself with it, or catch up with your colleagues. You might find that even the ones who are a bit challenging to work with aren't quite so bad over coffee.

Keep a Positive Attitude

We've all been through a trying 18 months, and it can be easy to sink into despair and even depression. While you should certainly seek help if you think your emotions are becoming hard to control, stay positive by reminding yourself that things are already starting to improve and will be even better soon.

At the same time, steer clear of people or online posts that preach toxic positivity. Statements like "cheer up, everything's going to be okay" or "just look on the bright side" can be extremely unhelpful and insensitive toward people who are going through actual problems. If people at the office try to spread toxic positivity, politely but firmly ignore them.

While heading back to the workplace may seem tiresome and even nerve-racking, it can help to remember that reopened offices are a great sign that things are getting back to normal. And everyday life does include its share of ups and downs. Give yourself the space to navigate them, and remember that you matter and are an important and necessary force in it all — and you'll soon get your groove back and then some.


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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