Returning to work after time away—whether for safety/health reasons, a personal leave of absence, or a vacation—can be stressful. Here is how I tackle my workload and my anxiety when I come back to the office.
Sometimes we might temporarily leave the office or job site for personal reasons, for mandated safety restrictions (such as with the global health crisis), for a restorative mental health break, or for an actual vacation.
Depending on the reason for our time away from the daily grind, taking a break from work can be awesome … But it can leave me stressing about certain tasks when it is time to go back. I feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts about what awaits me when I return to the office. The dread of the emails, paperwork, and problem-solving that needs to be done … the pressure I feel to complete all of the work that has piled up is unreal.
I probably bring a lot of the pressure on myself because I
want to get all of my work done right away. I am one of those people who can’t
stand notifications. I have no unread emails, text messages, or unopened
notifications on my phone. This is why coming back to work causes me anxiety.
Keeping your workspace tidy is helpful in so many different ways—including when it’s time to take a vacation or break. Before I take vacation or personal days, I make sure I have completed all of my responsibilities—or at least as much as possible—and have left everything in its place. This relaxes me so that I feel prepared to leave for a few days. Being organized helps me deal with the stress that comes with returning work.
Setting the Alarm Clock
Just the thought of having to set my alarm for work stresses me out. It is a clear reminder that I can no longer sleep as long as I want. I love sleep, and we all know that with bipolar, adequate sleep is vital. To handle this, I take some quiet time to reflect on how I spent my time. I try to remember all of the fun I just had being off of work, how much I enjoyed each day, and all that I did. Then I kind of plan out what I want to do next time. This helps me to feel calm, and then I am ready to turn on the alarm. Also, because I didn’t get to sleep as long as I would have liked, I will totally take a nap when I get home from work!
Work emails! The amount of email that I get over a three-day
vacation is wild. I had over 300 messages recently. Three hundred notifications
telling me that something was important. I didn’t actually want to open my inbox
because I just knew this would happen. To help me deal with this, I do the
Display all the emails by sender.
Delete all spam and junk messages.
Set up the inbox reveal the first few lines of
Skim through to see what else I can eliminate,
based on the previewed lines.
Determine what needs to be handled right away.
Start responding and filing away the emails in
order of priority.
Catching Up on Paperwork
When you’re the only one responsible for certain tasks, your
workload can pile up. This is the case for me. I walk into the office, see the mound
of paperwork on my desk, and freak out inside. Remember, I am just walking into
the office, so I haven’t looked at the unknown amount of emails that are
waiting for me. To deal with this mountain of paperwork … I just ignore it.
I know that may seem terrible, but I can only handle one
thing at a time. That paperwork has been there for a few days now, so it can
wait a little longer. Once I get situated and have managed my inbox, I will handle
the paperwork when I can get to it. This is usually in a day or two.
When the time comes to tackle the stack of paperwork, I go
through all of it in one sitting. I sort everything into piles by category,
like bills, bank statements, things to file, and so on. I can determine from
this which are the most important and need to be dealt with, and then I tackle
those first. (Side note: I do not file everything right away—I hate filing!)
These are only a few of the stressors that I face when going back to work. Taking time off is something we should all look forward to—I know I do. Even when we know the emails and paperwork will pile up, it is important to take a break from work and enjoy it—as best we can, whatever the circumstances!
Jessica Taylor lives in the Tampa Bay area. She has an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in accounting from the University of South Florida. She was diagnosed with bipolar II in 2016, at age 35. She has been with the love of her life for almost two decades. A corporate accountant who found her passion for this career in 2004, Jessica is also an avid outdoorsman. She loves Jesus and spending time with her family. Her hope is to shine a light on living with bipolar from what she has learned.
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