Article 1: Feeling Anxious About Returning to the Office? Experts Reveal How to Brush Up on Your Social Skills and Suggest Using Shopping Trips to Build Confidence (but Warn Not to Cover Awkwardness Up With Inappropriate Jokes)

  • Experts revealed how you can combat social awkwardness when lockdown ends
  • Relationship guru Tina Wilson says build social skills by practising on stranger
  • Said remove any triggers or apps that give you FOMO or increase your anxiety
  • Author Martin Boroson recommends ‘micro-meditation’ to help restore calm
  • Dr Lucy Davey highlights importance of recognising value of being ‘unproductive’ during any past home working

By CHLOE MORGAN FOR MAILONLINE
Published: 14:03 BST, 28 March 2021 | Updated: 17:32 BST, 28 March 2021

As the working world prepares to reopen, and businesses implement new safety measures to be Covid-19 safe, it’s key to get your mind ready too.

Over the past 12 months, working from home has meant we have not been able to have chit chat or communicate in the same way we did pre-lockdown.

We’ve all experienced stress and uncertainty during 2020 but we should prepare ourselves that the new working world is going to take some getting used to.

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, several experts have revealed the best ways to get back into social situations – including relationship guru Tina Wilson, who advises building up your confidence and social skills by practising on a stranger in the supermarket.

She suggests it’s the perfect way to break out of your comfort zone without feeling the pressure of speaking to your boss.

Several experts and revealed how to brush up on your social skills and combat social awkwardness when lockdown ends. Pictured, stock image

USE YOUR ESSENTIAL SHOPPING TRIP TO GET SOCIAL

Going about your normal tasks with a focus on being social will help you to start to feel reconnected, according to relationship expert Tina Wilson.

‘If you are at the supermarket, make small talk with the staff or other customers,’ she explains. ‘Even if you are wearing a mask, do smile even if you are not feeling that happy. Yes it sounds weird, but there is something to be said for the mind can follow a behaviour.’

‘Try to put your best foot forward and channel something that can make you feel happy. Don’t overdo it but if someone makes eye contact, smile and say hello.’

She goes on to say that smiling can make you feel happier within yourself and this, in turn, will transition to the people around you.

‘You will come off as friendly and approachable which in any situation can only have positive effects,’ she adds.

Tina suggests building up your confidence by practicing on a stranger.

‘What better way to brush up on your social skills than to chat to the person next to you in line at the supermarket?’ she continues.

‘This is an easier way of breaking out of your comfort zone without feeling the pressure of speaking to your boss or clients’.

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, whether that’s around how well you adapted to working from home, how much schoolwork you managed to juggle, or how well you maintained a diet or fitness regime during lockdown.

‘Everyone’s experiences of the past year will have been different and there was no right, or wrong way to approach it,’ explains Dr Lucy Davey, a coach for professional mothers.

‘Not only is it a pointless task; it conjures up unhealthy failures in yourself. We must appreciate that we have all had different strengths and weaknesses in our family-work life ecosystems since the pandemic started’.

Dr Lucy Davey also says we should recognise the value of being ‘unproductive’ during any past home working.

‘There may have been days where you had to be both teacher and entertainer to accommodate the needs of your children,’ she explains. ‘Try to focus on how you strengthened the mother-child bond in the process’.

GET IN EARLY

Relationship expert Tina also says that while ‘no-one is suggesting you need to be in at the crack of dawn, but late is going to stress you out even more.

‘Rushing into the building all flustered and sweaty palmed with a room full of colleagues will heighten your social awkwardness,’ she points out.

‘Instead, be early in and see how things naturally reverse themselves. You will feel in control, calm, collected and ready to say hello to anyone who walks past your desk.

‘Catching up on any morning kitchen gossip is also essential to fit into the office vibe too.’

What you must NOT do according to relationship expert Tina Wilson:

– Do not make inappropriate jokes regarding the pandemic to cover up your awkwardness.

There are going to be many triggers amongst your colleagues so be mindful that many will have experienced the worst.

– Do not try and guess someone’s name.

If in doubt there is no harm in asking them again.

We’ve all been away for such a long time, there is no shame in asking their name again or position.

– Don’t make your working life a social treat – this isn’t a night out with friends so be mindful that you need to get work done.

Don’t call out any bad behaviours of your colleagues publicly.

For example, if your colleague is continually late or struggling, do have a quiet word rather than make an office joke.

There could be a manner of reasons as people try to get back into working life, none less than busy public transport which will cause a lot of stress.

BUDDY-UP

Tina also advises to align yourself with a pal or someone more socially comfortable and skilled than yourself, both in and out of the office.

‘If you are feeling slightly nervous, their energy is going to help you feel more confident and being around someone with a greater confidence and you will find yourself slipping into their energy,’ she says.

TAKE IT ONE MOMENT AT A TIME

Martin Boroson, an executive coach and author of One-Moment Meditation, says that although this transition may seem difficult, remember that it is just another moment.

‘Every moment offers you the opportunity to take a deep breath, centre yourself, and take it one moment at a time,’ he explains.

Martin teaches that how you deal with each moment ‘can change everything’.

He also says that the practice of ‘micro-meditation’ can be used ‘on the go’ to help restore calm during times of anxiety or stress, such as getting the children ready for school, on the commute to work, or even as you make your way to the meeting room.

‘Learning to meditate may sound hard and it can be tempting to put it off until later, when you think you will have more time,’ continues Martin. ‘But in truth there is no better time to stop and pause than right here, right now, in the present moment.

‘No matter where you are or how busy you might be, surely you have a moment to spare. You can practice micro-meditation anywhere. No cushions needed’.

ACTS OF KINDNESS

One thing the pandemic has shown us is that we really value human contact, friendships and relationships, and that a kind word, does go a long way, according to expert Tina Wilson.

‘During these uncertain times ahead, as much as you may want to hide away behind a mask or your desk, make the effort to make eye contact and say hello to new people,’ she advises.

‘If everyone did this, such a small token of human contact, it is going to have a positive effect on everyone.’

‘Remember how nice it feels when someone singles you out and says “hello?” So do make the first move and be this person for others. Don’t expect a response, but be giving in the moments you can.’

She also advises to distract your mind from negative thoughts by doing something nice for a friend or colleague.

‘This will help you have a positive social interaction with that person and help break the ice,’ she adds. ‘It will also help lift your mood’.

Dr Lucy Davey also stresses the importance of being kind to yourself as well as others.

She says: ‘Park those negative and self-defeating beliefs. Self-compassion is so very important, and we should take the time to really cultivate it’.

DON’T RUSH IN

‘Don’t expect to snap back, it is going to take time to settle back into a new normal,’ says Tina Wilson. ‘This isn’t like coming back to work after a holiday to catch up on the office gossip.

‘You and your colleagues will have experienced many lows during this time at home. with some going through the worst of times, so don’t assume everyone’s pandemic experience will match yours.’

‘Many people have lost friends and family so keep it appropriate.

‘You will have several weeks and months to fully catch up on the past year so take your time and give others space.

‘So take your time, practice patience and breathe before reacting to anything. We are all brimming with an eagerness to get back to normal, but this is going to be a new normal, not the same as before.’

SELF TALK

Relationship expert Tina Wilson explains that even the most confident of people are going to have anxious moments.

‘After any trauma there is a fall out as we readjust to life, and so how you talk to yourself is going to be really important,’ she says.

‘There are many affirmational clips you can listen to or meditations in order to keep your mind calm.

‘Affirmations are really helpful when you need to give yourself reassurance or a pep talk and it’s amazing that just using simple sayings such as “I can do this” throughout the day, will have a uptick in confidence’.

‘Write down (or make a note on your phone) one thing you are grateful for. It might seem silly, but imagining this gratitude for just a fleeting moment, is going to replace any other feelings.’

She adds: ‘It can be something as basic, I’m grateful for my good health or I’m grateful there was no delays on the train today.

‘When you focus on things you are grateful for, no matter how small, it breaks the mindset of anxiety or focus on things that do not help you.’

GENERAL TIPS

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE

‘Whether you are dealing with imposter syndrome, worries over health or simply don’t feel you’re enjoying your job anymore, speaking to a mentor or coach can work wonders,’ says Dr Lucy Davey.

She explains that speaking to someone totally removed from the situation is the best way to assist your return to work and deal with your concerns in a relaxed, confidential, non-judgmental setting, and that ‘it can prove much more rewarding than confiding in family, colleagues or friends.’

DON’T IGNORE THE WARNING SIGNS OF BURNOUT

Working from home certainly hasn’t been an easy ride for many, so it’s very likely that you’ll be bringing some of that pent-up stress back into the workplace.

‘Anyone can experience burnout. It creeps up on you slowly and the results can be devastating’, explains organisational psychologist Karen Meager.

Building burnout preventing strategies into your life can help you to keep your energy up and prevent the build-up of stress.

These include prioritising a good night’s sleep, finding the best rhythm for your lifestyle and being more aware of draining or toxic relationships.

‘It’s not always a case of cutting people out of your life, a relationship may need some issues addressing or just less of your time and energy’, Karen explains.

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

‘Slow down on the social media’, advises Tina Wilson. ‘Whilst online platforms have given us life for the past year, it’s not normal social behaviour to be constantly on the phone, so force yourself to pace any online social time.

‘Do a clear-out of accounts you follow to make a conscious effort to only follow accounts that help to energise and make you feel good.’

‘Do this by removing any triggers or app notifications that give you FOMO or increase your anxiety.’

GET BACK IN TOUCH

Relationship Expert Tina Wilson says: ‘Start slowly building up your friendship circle again by reaching out to friends you may not have spoken to for a long time.

‘We all have the pandemic in common, so reaching out to see how they’ve been getting on is a key way to reintegrate those relationships.

With true friendships, you can pick up where you left off no matter how long in-between contact it has been’.

‘Even the most confident personalities have taken a bashing with the past years’ experience, so do check out who you are spending time with.

‘Double check that they are giving off the right energy that you want to be around’.

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