How are you feeling about the news on progressing to Phase 3 and returning to the office? This development is good news for some and not-so-good news for others. Nevertheless, one thing that is common regardless of which side you belong to is that it is going to be another transition for all of us. And with every transition, our body and mind go through an inevitable period of stress.
The Schlossberg Transitions Theory defines transition as any event or non-event that results in changing of relationships, routines, assumptions and roles. We usually react to transitions in four stages:
At the start of the pandemic and Circuit Breaker, there were numerous concerns on mental health issues and reports of anxiety. TOUCH saw a 70% increase in mental health related calls from March to May as compared to the same period last year. During those three months, most Singaporeans experienced Stages 1 to 4 where they had to deal with shock, disorientation and anger together with other varied emotional responses while scrambling to make meaning of the situation and settle into a new routine. Coupled with the uncertainty of the situation and the increased demands on families, it is no surprise that many experienced symptoms of anxiety during this unprecedented trying period.
With the new changes that Singapore is undergoing as we move towards Phase 3, some of us will have to adapt to a new routine and new office management guidelines such as the wearing of masks in the office for a prolonged period of time. It is likely that we would go through the four stages of change again. Schlossberg identified four major sets of factors that influence a person's ability to cope with a transition: Situation, Self, Support, and Strategies, which are also known as the 4S's.
Here are some tips that may help you better manage the stress of going back to work.
- Evaluate your responsibility
What can you control in this situation? Let go of what you can’t control and work at what you can control to ease the pains of transitions. For example, with flexi working hours implemented, you can make a decision to go to work at a time closest to your current routine.
- Prepare yourself for “Business Not As Usual”
It takes time to adapt to change. Productivity might drop in the short term. Know your limits and do not pack your calendar and plate as if you are working on a BAU (business as usual) basis. Give yourself some room and space to navigate change by deliberately slowing your pace a little.
- Get adequate rest
This can never be emphasised enough. An alert mind and a rested body go a long way in building resilience to combat stress. As you transit from working from home to working from your office, your sleep routine might need to change to ensure that you are adequately rested.
- Quickly build a new routine
Routine brings a lot of security to your mind and body. Keep old routines where possible and incorporate new ones to accommodate the transition.
- Identify suitable coping strategies
It is important to develop non-location specific coping strategies. For example, if reading helps you with stress relief, it could be one of your non-location specific coping strategy as it can be done anywhere – at home or even during your commute to work. Listening to music is another possible option.
Having community support and developing a sound strategy to cope with change and transitions can lower your stress levels and do wonders for your mental and emotional health too. If you need help during this season, TOUCH Mental Wellness is here to support you. Please call TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) to speak with a counsellor.
This article is contributed by Ms Andrea Chan, Head of TOUCH Mental Wellness.
TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances.
An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.