The return from vacation to routine and work is usually hard for everyone, but for some people it can reach such an extreme that just anticipating it causes anxiety attacks .
And if this is a phenomenon that has traditionally been occurring, this year may be amplified by the changes that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to our lives (for example, in the way we relate to each other or in the presence at work).
“Yes it is quite common for people to introduce anxious depressives states or after the holiday period , ” explains 20Minutos Marcos Andrés Ortega, psychologist, social worker and popularizer from Youtube channel engram . “For most of us, vacations are a period full of reinforcing, pleasant stimuli that we seek and that we do not usually have access to; and in which we are far from stressors like those at work.”
“Anxiety is adaptive”
“Anxiety is an adaptive response ,” he continues. “It is good in the short term, because it prepares the body to flee when it perceives a potential danger. The problem is when it occurs in situations that we have to experience every day, such as, for example, seeing a neighbor”,
This form of anxiety, Ortega details, is not the same throughout the world. For example, there are a series of conditions that can lead us to be more prone to suffering from it: “Personality is learning, and it also depends on the context. It is nothing other than that relatively stable repertoire of behaviors that occurs in one context or another. : that is, how you usually act “.
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“It depends a lot on how they have educated you. Parents serve as models for us (we grow up seeing their behaviors and how they react to the environment) and also shape our personality with reinforcements and punishments . Many people believe that this is inherited; what if your parents they were like that, it is more likely that you are like that. And this is true, but not because it is encoded in the genes, “he says.
“If, for example, a child cries a lot when he goes to school for the first time and instead of waiting for him to calm down to leave him there, the parents console him excessively and do not even leave him there because he cries too much, he will learn that this frees him of an unpleasant situation. That is, it depends on how we are educated we learn to have more or less anxiety, “he continues.
“In very demanding jobs, baseline anxiety is very high”
However, the appearance of this anxiety before returning to work not only depends on our personality and our education, but the work itself can be decisive for it. This expert explains it like this: “If we talk about anxiety and not depression, it is usually generated, on the one hand, by jobs that have recently started to which there has not yet been an adaptation and, on the other, those in which there is more uncertainty , in which novel stimuli are constantly given “.
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“And then there are the very demanding jobs, in which the boss bullies you or tightens the nuts on you, in which the basal anxiety level is very high.”
At this point where we see how anxiety largely depends on the personality that we have formed throughout our lives (“the fundamental thing is learning,” Ortega emphasizes), it is worth wondering if there is something that those who suffer from this problem can do to avoid it.
“Going back to work gradually can reduce anxiety”
Ortega explains some keys to manage it. For example, he mentions that “if the return to work is gradual, and not suddenly, it is possible that the anxiety is less, since we do not eliminate all the reinforcing stimuli at once and the entrance of the stressful stimuli is more gradual”.
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Along these lines, he explains that “in therapy, the way to work with anxiety is by exposure”. “Anxiety is like a mountain. It goes up until it reaches a peak, which is when we face the danger that we anticipated. If before reaching it we leave there (real or figuratively, through avoidance behaviors), the next time If we face the same situation we are going to feel anxiety.
But if we expose ourselves to it and do not resort to avoidance behaviors (which are not always evident, for example, they can be thinking about something else) we learn that there is nothing to fear and every once the anxiety will be less “, he develops.
At this point, the question may arise as to why a person suffers from this anxiety when going back to work is something we expose ourselves to every year. Ortega clarifies that “if the vacations are very long, it may happen that anxiety reappears when returning to work, even if it is something to which there has been a lot of previous exposure, because the habituation that exists to that situation disappears.”
“The best thing is to know what anxiety is”
For this reason, says Ortega, “once anxiety appears, the best thing to do, although it is not easy, is to accept that anxiety, recognize what it is. Know what anxiety is, which is panic . ” And based on that, work with gradual exposure: “to a person with arachnophobia, a therapist does not directly expose him, on the first day, to a spider, because his response may be so strong that he cannot manage it. exposure is gradual: first an insect that looks like the spider, or the spider on television, and so on until the person is ready to be exposed to the spider. With anxiety when returning to work is the same. “
Finally, he insists: “If people knew what anxiety is, many undesirable behaviors would be avoided in the long term and a healthier relationship with the environment could be established.”
“In a less individualistic society, anxiety would be less”
In any case, we must not lose sight of the fact that anxiety is determined by how we interact with the environment, so it is also necessary to address the other part of the equation. In this sense, Ortega concludes that “the best thing we could do is learn from small key issues such as what are the principles of learning, how anxiety and depression work.”
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“It is not because it is my field,” he argues, “but what psychology studies is behavior. And that (behaving) we do all the time, even when we are in bed thinking. What is more vital than knowing how to do we behave (ourselves and others) and why do we do it this way? “, he wonders.
And, finally, he adds: “If we lived in a less demanding society, with less uncertainty, less individualistic (more collectivist), possibly anxiety would be less . And if there were expert advisers in governments, society could be organized based on the principles learning and anticipating and dealing with people’s reactions. “