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Four Tips to Help Cope With Return-to-Campus Anxiety

As the world continues to emerge from pandemic lockdowns, there’s excitement in getting back to life as it was. But for many, that excitement may also be tinged with a little – or, in some cases, a lot of – anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious about being back on campus, know that you’re not alone. It’s completely natural, says Director of Wellbeing at Chapman University Jay Kumar, Ph.D. For over a year, our homes have provided a safe and familiar work environment, one that has gotten us through the most difficult of times. But, because our brain craves safety, security and stability, the shift to pre-pandemic campus life has left some people experiencing pandemic-induced social anxiety (PISA), according to Dr. Jay.

So, how do we cope with PISA? If you feel the anxiety begin to creep in, here are four things Dr. Jay says can help ease those feelings.

1. Re-train your brain to re-humanize.

After 15 months of endless Zoom meetings, many customs at the workplace, like handshakes and in-person meetings, are going to feel foreign. While this is bound to produce initial anxiety and confusion, learning to re-train our brain to “re-humanize” is essential for thriving at work and in the world. Dr. Jay suggests shifting the focus from yourself to others. When we are nervous or anxious, our tendency is to drive our attention inward. We hyper-focus on ourselves, scrutinizing every little thing we do or say. But by shifting our focus to others, we can eliminate some of the pressure that drives anxiety. 

2. Acknowledge that the return to Chapman isn’t an on/off switch; it’s a dimmer switch. 

We’re simply not going to be able to resume a “normal” return to work right away. It’s going to be a gradual process that will not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Establish a routine or set up a plan to help make the return to work simple and smooth.

3. Focus on what works for you.

People’s risk-tolerance is going to be different moving forward. Establishing clear boundaries and sticking to them will go a long way. 

4. Find unity in community. 

Be mindful about how your decisions affect others and the greater community. We’re all in this together. The need for psychological safety is going to be key moving forward. Cultivating this safety begins with building trust, respecting others’ needs and boundaries and committing to a shared responsibility. 

If you feel you require additional support, take advantage of the various resources available at Chapman or reach out for help.

If you would like to learn more about mental health and the return to work, keep an eye out for two of Dr. Jay’s upcoming LinkedIn Learning courses that will be out this fall. 


Michelle Anguka

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