If you’re going into work during the coronavirus pandemic, our guidance may help you feel more able to cope. Our information provides tips for understanding difficult feelings, taking care of your mental wellbeing and where to find support.
You might have been going into work since the start of pandemic. Or you might have recently returned to work after spending time at home. Either way, you may be dealing with some stressful and unusual circumstances.
No matter what your job is, many of us might be sharing common feelings about going into work at this time. Our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing offer ways to help you cope with difficult feelings you may experience.
You might face some of the following experiences and emotions:
There are many reasons why you may feel stressed about going into work during the coronavirus pandemic. For example:
You might feel some of the effects of stress right away. Others could take longer to notice, even after the stressful period has ended.
See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.
You may experience anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic if you have to go into work. You might feel anxious about:
Or this anxiety may be on top of other worries related to coronavirus and work. Some examples might be:
See our pages on anxiety and panic attacks to find out more.
“We're worried about being more likely to catch the virus as we are having to expose ourselves a lot more... Everyone is worried about spreading the virus unintentionally to people they work with.”
You may feel guilty about going into work during coronavirus, for yourself and for others. We all react to difficult situations in different ways, so it's important to be kind to yourself.
You might feel guilty about:
Remember: it's always ok to ask for help for your mental health The NHS still wants you to do this during the pandemic. You are not wasting anyone's time.
Going into work during the pandemic might make you feel angry, for example because of:
Many of us will experience episodes of anger which feel manageable. Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you.
For more about anger, see our pages on how to cope with anger.
No matter what your job is, anyone who has to go into work can experience the common difficult feelings explained above.
But you may also have some unique experiences and emotions if you work in healthcare or the emergency services.
This information may help if you work in:
If you work in healthcare or the emergency services, you may find these experiences difficult:
See our useful contacts list for support in your area of work.
Many of us are worried about ourselves and those close to us. But your job may also involve being around or caring for people who are very unwell. This may include providing end-of-life care.
You might lose people you are caring for, colleagues or others in your life. Working in this environment can be distressing or traumatic.
It's natural to have to cope with difficult emotions during traumatic events. For example, you might feel:
It might feel difficult to focus on your mental health when you're dealing with so much more.
But it's ok to ask for help whenever you need it. This could be right now, in the future, or both.
“I feel that we have to be stoic, and that because we're working in healthcare we should be willing and able to put ourselves at risk and deal with the pressure.”
There are also lots of options for work support for healthcare and the emergency services during coronavirus.
You may experience difficult feelings about wearing a mask at work, especially if you are asked to wear one for long hours.
Across England and Wales, mask guidance differs between different types of work. You can find the latest rules on wearing face coverings in different workplaces on the UK and Welsh government websites:
Our page on mask anxiety, face coverings and mental health also has information on being exempt from wearing a mask if you have mental health problems, including if you are asked to wear a mask in the workplace.
Telling someone about how you feel can make a difference, even if they can't change what you're experiencing.
You may want to talk to a colleague who understands your experiences. Or you may prefer to speak to someone outside of work, for a different view on things.
“Regular communication with work helped me manage my anxiety and stress about eventually returning, and the measures that were put into place for when I was ready.”
Keep in touch with others as much or as little as you find helpful. It could be your colleagues or people close to you. If you don't feel comfortable meeting with others in person, you could:
If you're going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing.
See our pages about online mental health for more information.
“I've drawn on all my coping mechanisms – exercised, meditated, got out into green spaces when I can. And I've been staying in contact with friends over the phone and through video calls.”
You might find it helpful to stay connected with current events. But take care with where you find news and health information. Try to use trusted sources to find reliable updates.
If news stories make you feel anxious or confused, you could:
Social media can help you stay in touch with colleagues or friends, but might also make you feel anxious. This may be because of people sharing news stories that you want to avoid. Or people posting how they feel about coronavirus.
If this is the case, you could:
See our pages about online mental health for more information.
It may feel very difficult to make time for yourself while working.
You may also feel guilty about relaxing while your colleagues are working. Especially if you're all working more than usual or under a lot of pressure.
But making time for yourself is important for your mental and physical health. Try to use the time when you're not working to take care of yourself. This can help you keep going when you are at work.
If you're finding it difficult to switch off from work, see our pages on relaxation. They offer tips and exercises to help you relax. You can try these at home or during a break at work.
It may feel unrealistic to make time for activities you enjoy. But doing something else outside work can help you stay well. This could be video chatting with someone close to you, reading a book or listening to podcasts and music.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. It uses techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. It might help you feel calmer and less stressed.
See our pages on mindfulness for more information. You could try some mindfulness exercises during a work break, or outside of work
“I'm trying to make time to try new things that I've always wanted to do but never had time for. And spending more time on things I enjoy.”
It may feel hard to take care of your physical health if you're feeling busy or stressed by work. But looking after your physical health can have a big effect on your mental health.
There are many small changes you can try to improve your wellbeing.
Your appetite might have changed since the start of the pandemic. This may be because your routine has changed, for example if you're working more than usual or different hours.
If possible, try to eat regular meals and keep a balanced diet. This can help your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more information.
If you have a difficult relationship with food and eating, our pages on eating problems have information and tips which may help.
Try to regularly drink enough water. This is important for your mental and physical health.
It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you to keep hydrated. See the NHS information on water, drinks and your health.
Where possible and safe to do so, you could go outdoors to try:
If you’re staying indoors, try some ideas for getting active where you live. You could try:
See more on our pages about physical activity and your mental health.
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for your mental health. But it can be hard to manage when you also need to go into work. You could try:
See more on our pages about sleep and mental health.
“It’s not always corona worries that keep me awake. It's more work worries that have been brought on by corona.”
Some workplaces offer mental health support to their employees. Try to find out if your employer offers specialist support, such as:
Outside work, you could talk to helplines and listening services about your mental health.
Our page of coronavirus useful contacts lists organisations, services and other sources of support.
Find information for things like:
If you're struggling with your mental health, you might want to seek professional help. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for information on how to do this.
This information was last updated on 9 August 2021.
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The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on our mental health. Help us be there for everyone who needs us at this crucial time.