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Return to office concerns are normal, Valley mental health expert says

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PHOENIX – The World Health Organization over a year ago declared the spread of COVID-19 a global pandemic, an announcement that changed the whole world.

The announcement brought about widespread anxiety over the pandemic and mitigation measures, one of which was social isolation that took a toll on mental health.

As the world returns to what was normal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who were sentenced to work from home are experiencing a new anxiety – the fear of returning to work.

Dr. Melissa Estavillo, a mental health specialist at Biltmore Psychology and Counseling in Phoenix, says that given the disruption the pandemic caused in so many people’s lives, and the length of time it lasted, it is completely natural to have concerns about returning to the office.

“Many people struggled to work from home in the beginning because it was a drastic change, but it was long enough that people got used to it,” Estavillo told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday. “Now we are having the exact same thing going back to work.”

Estavillo said we as humans do not adjust easily to change, so it will take time for the nerves to settle.

She recommends looking at the positives when you make an appearance back in the office.

“Connect with some of the friendships that can help us feel empathy and understood,” Estavillo said.

It’s also important to advocate for your feelings with your employer, whether it’s describing any anxiety or worries that you have about being away from home and your family or if you are concerned about your health.

The reasons people could be worried about heading back to work in-person are likely different for each.

Some may have simply got used to a new way of doing things at home and could be reluctant to return to the way things were prior to the pandemic, while others could be concerned about the new highly-transmissible COVID-19 delta variant.

“People felt, when they were working from home, a little bit more in control of when they were exposed potentially to coronavirus,” Estavillo said. “Coming back to work, ideally, many companies were doing that at its lowest point, but that’s changed now with the variant.”

Estavillo added there’s another concern for kids as many head back to school this week.

She described it being difficult for parents to get back into the routine while being back at the office, in addition to worrying about the delta variant as kids return to the classroom.

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