Whether you’re currently going through treatment, or planning your transition back to daily life, eventually, you’re going to be faced with the inevitable challenge of managing the burdens of recovery while at work. Maintaining your employment status means more than earning a check to pay the bills, it’s actually an important part of your treatment, as well. But if you aren’t careful, dealing with the unpleasantries of your recovery symptoms while trying to work can throw a wrench in the well-oiled cogs of your job commitments and maybe even your professional relationships.
While some people in recovery may be excited to get back to work, fear and anxiety about returning to the workplace are common. “Will I be able to keep up?” “What will people think?” “What if I can’t handle the stress?” are all frequent concerns. Relax. These feelings are normal and, thankfully, there are a few ways to get back on your feet, while still maintaining your sanity, quality of work, and reputation.
When returning to work after treatment, or when changing your schedule to accommodate outpatient appointments, don’t keep your boss and co-workers in the dark. Leaving co-workers to speculate where you’ve been will only fuel rumors and hinder workplace relationships.
It’s up to you how much or little you want to disclose to your colleagues, but even pulling a few of your closest work pals aside and just letting them know you’ve been struggling with some medical issues can ease the awkwardness. You may even have some close friends in the office who already know exactly what’s been going on. If that’s the case, speak with them privately about what you would like them to say to anyone who asks about you.
Then, there’s your boss- you should probably speak with them, too. This conversation should look a bit differently than the one you may have had with Judith in accounting. If your boss doesn’t already know what you’ve been going through, it’s a good idea to express your continued dedication to your work assignments while asking for some time to gradually transition back into the swing of a full workload.
If your boss is understanding, you may earn some flexibility with deadlines and scheduling.
If not, respectfully let them know that you understand their expectations and assure them that meeting important business goals and objectives is still your top priority.
Whether you’ve got your boss on your side or not, your workday is still going to have some level of stress. For you, the ways you manage the bombardment of stress throughout the day could be the difference between a productive day and a near-relapse. Even one less craving per day would be a victory, so you need to go in with a plan to minimize stress levels while still maximizing your productivity.
Here are some strategies:
Schedule breaks. One common mistake in the workplace is falling into a “go, go, go” mentality. For some reason, many of us think that if we work straight through a 10-hour shift without a break, we’ll be more productive. In reality, it’s completely the opposite. Not only does productivity go down when we are overworked, but increased stress harms your health and personal relationships. Experts recommend instead working in increments of 90 minutes at maximum, followed by a brief recovery period to rejuvenate yourself and refresh your mentality. Get up and take a walk, stand up and stretch, or just get away from your desk for a bit.
Eat and sleep like a boss. A poor diet is bound to make you sluggish and unmotivated, which is also likely to increase stress levels as work piles up on your desk. Eating a high-protein, low sugar diet will help keep you energized and on your feet. Likewise, making sure that you’re getting a sufficient amount of sleep is critical in allowing your body time to recover at the end of each day.
Have clear goals and prioritize. So often we get caught up in projects at work which have little meaning or impact, or are simply “busy work” tasks passed onto us by others. Identify and remind yourself of your specific role in the organization and how you can best contribute to the company’s success. Amend your daily to-do list to include only tasks that are most impactful to achieving your goals.
Even with these strategies, you may still have cravings, which is to be expected. What’s important is that you safely manage those cravings through healthy alternatives and coping mechanisms.
You’ve likely learned all about the different ways to redirect your thoughts and manage those cravings during treatment, but applying those skills in real-world situations will take some practice and willpower, especially when experiencing those hankerings at work.
Be patient with yourself and trust the recovery process. Soon, you’ll be back in the groove of things and ready to tackle any project thrown your way.