Returning to work after suffering from anxiety or depression can be a challenge, but many patients discover that the return to familiar routines and tasks is enormously beneficial, as well as encouraging. Having a defined work role with clear responsibilities can help rebuild a sense of self-respect and personal pride, which is particularly important in the recovery process. For this reason, returning to work as soon as possible is often encouraged as part of the healing process.
Plan your return
Before making a decision about when to recommence work, discuss your return with your healthcare professional, your line manager and your employer’s occupational health department. It can be invaluable to discuss your situation with the latter as you may benefit from adaptations to your work, such as your assigned responsibilities or hours, in order to facilitate a successful return. The occupational health department may liaise with your line manager but is wholly independent and non-judgemental.
Phase your return
If returning to a demanding full-time role makes you apprehensive or wary, explore the possibility of a phased return with part-time hours. A phased return can be enormously beneficial in enabling the worker to gradually ease into the structure and routine of work life after a period of anxiety or depression. Your employer has a duty of care to you as an employee, so discuss the arrangement with the occupational health department.
Take small steps
Don’t expect too much of yourself on your return to work. While for some people resuming their full role will be therapeutic and accelerate their recovery, it is also very normal to experience fatigue, especially if antidepressants have been prescribed. Plan appropriate rest periods during the working day and try to avoid taking piles of work home, as you may appreciate the separation between work and home life. Also, consider requesting a mentor within your company who you can turn to should you find that you need support in the initial resettling-in period.
Make early contact
If reconnecting with your colleagues concerns you, make informal contact before you return, for example on a social basis or simply by popping into the workplace for a brief visit. Decide how much you wish to share with your colleagues; some people prefer to be open about their illness while others opt not to. There is no right and wrong decision.
Returning to work after anxiety or depression can be hugely beneficial but above all, plan your return carefully, so that you can relish resuming this part of your life and enjoying the sense of achievement. If you have any concerns, you can always arrange to meet with Dr Ahmed at short notice