Bit of a random one today.
Last year I worked from home from Lockdown until around about May when we had to start opening buildings back up again, so I’m by now fully adjusted to the day to day ‘going to work’ as opposed to ‘wfh’ or furlough. For many today and the coming weeks however will be a period of readjustment as they go back into their places of work.
It sounds so straight forward and practically speaking it may well be but what I discovered upon my return to leaving the house daily last May was that several things freaked me out a bit that I didn’t really think would.
For one I forgot how tiring it can be. After sitting at the kitchen table for weeks hunched over a laptop or on my mobile phone but seeing very few people are moving only at times of planned exercise or the food shop the sudden travelling to and from work, being around people all day and interacting was much more draining than I recalled. It took a fair while to get back into a routine, for the days to feel normal and not so tiring.
I guess that’s obvious though, but there was another slightly less obvious thing I found upon my return.
That is the overstimulation of one or more of the body’s senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste).
I suffer from what you’d call generalised anxiety disorder and I often notice is that the more anxiety I am holding the more likely I am to feel some form of sensory overload. I think it’s linked to adrenaline and the flight or fight mode the body goes into, heightening senses to make you more alert to the danger it thinks is there. I tend to find noise and light the most common although I also struggle with panic in enclosed spaces, even if they’re not very enclosed at all which may be linked to touch.
So I’m not unfamiliar with sensory overload, but what I found upon returning to work after being at home alone for sometime was the unique feeling of sensory overload separate to anxiety.
After being indoors or outdoors but in limited locations travelling to work felt weird, the buildings felt huge, the lights felt blinding, people’s voices were louder and general chit chat that you get in a work environment was harder to hear as background noise and more distracting. I found the difference between my home and other places disconcerting and after interacting with so few people seeing lots of people all day overwhelming.
Sensory overload of course is tiring, therefore not shocking that the first few weeks back at work were more than a bit exhausting. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging these feelings. In fact being aware of how you feel and why can help you settle back into a routine quicker. We’re all looking forward to getting back to normal, it can therefore be confusing if as you start to get back to normal some things feel a bit odd or not great at first. Acknowledging that you need to readjust and that might take a few days can help you get back to normal quicker.