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BPT - While everyone's lives were upended this past year, they're about to be turned upside-down again. Vaccinations are underway, and companies nationwide are making plans to bring employees back to the office.

Some workers may welcome the change after spending over a year at home, but many now prefer working in their "COVID caves." Some employees have found they are more productive at home, and better able to find a work-life balance. For many, the idea of having to leave home and return to their cubicles is evoking feelings of genuine dread, anxiety - or even panic.

A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half (49%) of adults are uneasy about the return to in-person interactions, and even 48% of those who are already vaccinated still feel uncomfortable about interacting with others.

While one person may be excited and enthusiastic about returning to the workplace, another may feel nervous. Some miss the social scene, but others don't enjoy water cooler chitchat or after-work happy hours.

These differences can be attributed to numerous factors:

* Environment (your work conditions)

* Lifestyle (your personal challenges and needs)

* Past experiences

* Genetic makeup

If you're suffering from anxiety or stress about returning to the office, this is a good time to be proactive about your own mental health. Fortunately, there are positive steps you can take to support your physical and mental well-being throughout these challenging times.

Here are tips for anyone struggling right now:

Prioritize basic needs

* Eat well - Don't skip meals or rely on less healthy options when stressed.

* Get some exercise - Find ways to move every day, even just for a walk around the block.

* Get enough sleep - Turn off gadgets to unwind before bed.

Do a personal inventory to discover your predispositions Genetics plays a big role in your feelings and attitudes toward work. Using a groundbreaking test called the Genomind Mental Health Map, you can find out if you are predisposed toward certain mental health traits. These results can provide insights into understanding your thoughts and feelings about going into the office, as well as other aspects of your life.

Your results will include an action plan based on your genetics, plus tools and recommendations from advocacy groups including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the American Lung Association and others.

This cheek swab DNA test, which you can get without a prescription, helps you learn how you are predisposed to feel and behave across 7 Core Genetic Mental Health Capabilities:

* Stress and Anxiety

* Mood

* Focus and Memory

* Sleep

* Eating Behavior

* Social Behavior

* Habits and Substance Use

One of the predispo-sitions identified is a heightened stress response. Individuals with that predisposition may have a more pronounced elevation of stress hormones. If this is true for you, it may explain why you experience heightened anxiety about going back into the office.

"Learning about your own genetic predispositions can be a positive step toward understanding yourself and taking control over your own mental health," says long-time Genomind clinician Debra Bjork, DO, Palmetto Counseling Associates. "Discovering how you are likely to respond to stressful or challenging circumstances can help you determine a course of action to support your own mental health."

Interested in learning more about your genetic predispositions? Visit MentalHealthMap.com.

Seek professional help

If you're feeling especially anxious or down, it may be a good idea to make an appointment to talk to a mental health professional.

If you take medications, but are still struggling with mental health issues, consider talking to your provider about pharmacogenetic testing psychiatric medication is often prescribed on a trial-and-error basis, with practitioners monitoring each patient's response before adjusting medications or doses. This process often leads to patient frustration and makes the condition worse before finding the optimal treatment.

This advanced pharmacogenetic test looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment across 130+ mental health medications and 10+ conditions. This can help your provider understand:

* Medication Efficacy or Risk - Identify medications and supplements that may be more or less risky

* Dosage - Personalize dosing based on the individual metabolism profile

* Gene-Drug Interaction Guidance - Identify potentially harmful interactions based on your patient's genes or other medications they may be taking 

"Because of pharmacogenomic testing I can make good decisions not only for better medication choices but can recommend lifestyle changes and supplements that will help," says Dr. Debra Bjork, DO. "Pharmacogenomics gives me a unique perspective that I would not have otherwise. I have an intimate knowledge of the patient that helps form the therapeutic relationship necessary for recovery."

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