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Your Well-being

Handling your return

New York Teacher

Some UFT members have been working remotely since March 2020 while others were on site during the last school year. But for everyone this September, the return to a school building that looks the same yet is different can feel disorienting.

You may have lost colleagues to COVID-19 or retirement since you were last in your school building. There are changing safety protocols in our society at large, with mask mandates in place for New York City public schools, public transportation and health care facilities, while the city’s stores and businesses set their own policies on mask wearing and social distancing.

That inconsistency can lead to stress, as can the fear of new variants. The sense that the pandemic’s end is no longer in sight can erode our sense of well-being. And continuing social isolation and anxiety can add strain to our personal relationships as well.

Managing the constant changes and stress is key, because it is always part of our lives, whether negative or positive — even desired events, such as planning a wedding, the birth of a baby or buying a house are major stressors.

The best way to manage stress is to identify the causes of your stress and determine what is within your control and what is not. Focus on what you can control, and ask yourself, “How do I respond when a stressor arises?” And, “What other choices do I have?”

Strategies for managing fear of the unknown, uncertainty and stress

  • Eat healthy: Make time to have a balanced diet and limit self-judgment when you don’t.
  • Be aware of your impulsive or explosive behaviors: Seek support from family, friends or a therapist for overeating, smoking, drinking, shopping, etc.
  • Move your body: Get those feel-good hormones flowing!
  • Boost your mood: Do one thing that brings you joy every day, even if it’s just for five minutes.
  • Don’t isolate: Connect with your colleagues and peers, especially now as a way to navigate the future together.
  • Embrace mindfulness and gratitude: Try journaling or meditation.
  • Try something new: Explore a new activity, and connect safely with your community.
  • Seek help: Check out the UFT Member Assistance Program, which offers free individual consultations, referrals and virtual workshops and support groups. Go to MAP for information.


For additional resources, visit Your Well-Being.

The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues.