According to the Office of Statistics common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and stress related illness have become some of the top causes of long term sickness.  
 The term 'stress related illness' is often used to describe issues such as burnout, exhaustion, depression and anxiety.  Taking time out from work can provide some respite but this can then lead to anxieties around returning to work. Below are some suggestions on managing the return to work after a spell of mental ill health, such as a stress related illness.  

Phased return
This is a common strategy offered by many employers and it offers the employee a chance to return to their normal working patterns in as part of a gradual and staged process.  Policies vary in terms of the length of time a person can take to return to their normal working hours so check with your manager or Human Resources Department. Not all smaller organisations and businesses have the facility to offer this kind of policy but,  even if there isn't a policy in place, an agreement may be made to temporarily reduce the persons hours of work. Alternatively there maybe other options such as using holiday leave or time accrued through a time off in lieu (TOIL) policy to shorten working days for an initial period.  Some organisations also offer flexible working hours so, if mornings are difficult the working day could be shifted giving a slightly later start time.  

Getting Support and Advice
For independent advice and guidance with regards to returning to work you may also find it helpful to speak with your trade union (if you are a member), your local Citizens Advice Bureau or ACAS.  The Health and Safety Executive also offers information and guidance on stress management via their website.

Other organisations can offer assistance and advice when returning to work after a mental health issue.  Many local branches of Mind have Employment Advisers.  Also the organisation, Access to Work, offers support to people who are returning to work after a mental health issue.  The Shaw Trust can also support to people with disabilities and this can include managing this disability in the workplace.

Many organisations, especially those working with the public, offer some form of supervision.  These are regular one to one meetings between a staff member and a line manager and they provide a space to discuss work related issues, access support and feedback and identify training needs.  If your organisation provides this then you may wish to speak with your supervisor about increasing the frequency of these sessions in the short term to support you through the process of returning to work.  Some organisation also give employees access to counselling service and this may also be something to consider.

Lunch breaks 
It is not always easy to leave your desk or workspace but taking time out to eat lunch and get some fresh air will really help you to manage your stress levels.  Taking time to eat lunch will also help you to keep your energy levels up.  Even if you appetite isn't good it's important to eat as it helps to regulate your blood sugar levels.  If you blood sugar levels become low this can lead to more anxiety and stress.

If you can, aim to go out and eat your lunch somewhere different to your place of work.  If you have a park or green space nearby and the weather is good then this can provide a relaxing environment.  A break will also take you away from the workplace noises such as ringing phones, computers, photocopiers, customers/clients and colleagues discussing work. Another alternative is to visit a local cafe or coffee shop.  If you are going to a coffee shop or cafe for lunch try to avoid the busiest periods between 12pm - 1pm as it may be difficult to find a seat and the environment could be noisy. If you can't leave your workplace you could try relocating to quieter area and bring a book or magazine to read.  

Managing post, messages and emails
Post and emails may have built up while you were away so, if possible, find a quiet space with less interruptions and work though post and messages.  Initially filter out junk mail and items that only require filing.  Once you have done this you can sort through what is left and create a to-do list.  Try to keep this list in a note book or diary rather than a scrap or paper or post-its as this makes it easier to keep track off.  You could also use an app on your phone or computer such as Trello, Epic Win (for Apple devices) or Remember the Milk.

As you are making your to-do list decide if action is needed today, this week or this month.  Also see what tasks can be grouped together or relate to a similar goal and what can be delegated or shared with a colleague.  Some items may require further information or explanation so you may need to speak with colleagues before deciding on a course of action. 

Break tasks up so you are not doing all of the challenging jobs at once.  Try to work in short bursts of 20 minutes followed by a minute or twos break.  After an hour take a longer break and get a drink.  This will help you remain focused and productive and reduce the chances of feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Managing questions about sickness leave
It is likely that you will be asked questions by colleagues, customers/clients and business associates that relate to your health. You will need to share some information about the cause of your absence with managers and HR departments but beyond this you are free to chose how much you share.

You are under no obligation to share personal details with others beyond those mentioned so it is perfectly okay to give general information and steer away from specific details of your health.  For instance someone may ask questions about why you were off work or how you are feeling now.  Often people are not intentionally prying or trying to make you uncomfortable, they are usually showing a friendly interest and concern or making chitchat. They may also be acknowledging that you have been away from work and that it is good to see you back.

If asked about a question about your health it's okay to give a general response about your health and wellbeing. You don't need to be specific and if they ask for more information it's okay to politely decline to answer.  All you need to say is that it is a private or personal matter. End by thanking them for being concerned and bring the topic back to the present.  You could ask them about a work project or an upcoming event.

Learning relaxation and anxiety management techniques
There is a wide variety of techniques available to help manage stress levels and help us to relax.  Some examples include guided mindfulness meditations, like the ones found on the Free Mindfulness website, deep breathing exercises, yoga, journalling, spending time with a pet and colouring in patterns and pictures such as those found in adult colouring books. Many of these, such as breathing exercises, can be used in the workplace to provide a moments respite when stressed or used before and after work to help unwind and relax.