As the country begins to slowly reopen, you might be gearing up to return to work. But after spending some time away, heading back to the office can feel overwhelming. Not only will your workplace look different than how you left it, but you'll need to re-route your routine, too.
"After the initial shutdown, we developed new routines," notes neuropsychologist Judy Ho, Ph.D. "Returning to work outside the home is going to require another reset and revaluation [as we navigate] this new environment."
To get a head start, consider these strategies for adjusting your routine after a stint of working from home. By staying proactive in your approach, you can pave the way for an easier transition.
1. Get back into meal prep.
With a fully stocked kitchen and nowhere to go, there's a good chance you stopped meal prepping while working from home. You might have also been frequently eating out of boredom, stress or convenience (or all of the above).
If this sounds familiar, try using back-to-work meal prep as a chance to reset. Focus on simple, straightforward meals like one-sheet-pan recipes or big salads. This way, you can get back in touch with your meal prep mojo while fine-tuning your eating routine.
2. Be open with your kids.
If you have little ones at home, your return to work might be hard on the family. In this scenario, "[talk] to your children about their emotions and what the experience is like for you," suggests therapist Lindsay Buvel, L.C.P.C., of Clarity Clinic. Moreover, if you need to make drastic changes to their daily routines, involve your kids in the conversation so they feel like they're part of the transition.
As for your furry friends? Buvel recommends leaving your pet with your used clothing to help them feel more comfortable. You can also research calming sprays or supplements to quell their anxiety.
3. Get a head start on your pre-work routine.
After months of working from home, you might have stopped making the bed, stretching it out or getting dressed in the morning. Now that it's time to go back to work, you may need to reevaluate how you start the day.
"To smooth the transition, [follow your morning routine] every day for at least a week before you return to work," suggests Ho. Better yet, use this opportunity to create a new and improved routine from scratch. By implementing these habits sooner rather than later, you'll set yourself up for a more successful return to work.
4. Slowly adjust your sleep schedule.
Similarly, if you've been ignoring bedtime and waking up late, tackle your sleep schedule before heading back. "Remember, it took a while to get [into] your current sleep routine, so it may take the same amount of time—or longer—to shift again," says Aisha R. Shabazz, L.C.S.W., M.S.S., M.L.S.P, therapist and founder of In Real Time Wellness.
Start by gradually adjusting your sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting up 15 minutes earlier every morning until you've adopted your ideal wake-up time. From there, "practice waking up at the same time every day, regardless of [when] you went to bed the night before," Shabazz adds.
5. Check in with your anxiety.
It's natural to feel anxious about physically returning to work, especially if you take public transportation or if you worry about risk factors. However, according to Buvel, considering these emotions while adjusting your approach is crucial for managing anxiety.
"Be mindful of balancing structure and flexibility," she advises. This means creating a routine to help reduce unpredictability (and therefore, anxiety) while acknowledging that the office environment has drastically changed. Also, take note of any information you have received from your employer, adds Shabazz. If you're wary about certain protocols, don't hesitate to contact management.
It's important to be kind to yourself during this time. You're about to navigate a new, unfamiliar situation in the wake of a global crisis. Focus on making small, attainable changes and remember that you're not in this alone.