Ways to Cope with PTSD at Work
f you’ve experienced a traumatic event, you may be experiencing PTSD symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be especially troubling while at work including an increased startle response, decreased ability to concentrate, difficulty thinking and being logical, and emotional outbursts. These symptoms typically are not how you want to portray yourself at work and so you might be tempted to deny them or that you’re having negative effects from your trauma. However, denial rarely works for the long term and can actually increase your trauma reaction. Instead, try some of these simple things listed below to see if they might make your day even a little bit easier.
1. Learn what works to calm you. Is it a certain type of music, thinking about a past vacation, or maybe smelling lavender or jasmine essential oils?
2. If possible, bring some things into your work environment that will help you to stay calm and feel loved. Hang some pictures of friends, family, or your beloved pet. Bring in plants or flowers. Put a picture of your last vacation on as your screen saver. Or maybe you have some small token that was given to you by your significant other. Having these things around you will help you to feel the love you associate with these people and times.
3. Learn some grounding exercises. These will help you to “ground” yourself in the here- and-now rather than being focused on the trauma. I’ve already done a blog on these that you can find here.
4. Take some deep breaths. These are many different deep breathing exercises and I’ve spoken on this topic several times already, so I won’t go into it yet again. If you’d like to see a nice video of the 4-7-8 method, you can check it out here.
5. Try to chew some gum, hum, or chant. These activities will stimulate the vagus nerve which starts your parasympathetic system whose purpose is to calm you and reverse the effects of your fight or flight response.
6. And if all of that fails, seek some help! There is no shame in getting some help when needed. Coping with the aftereffects of a traumatic event can be difficult at best so find someone to talk with. Maybe your family doctor or your company might have an EAP program or look for a therapist near you specializing in trauma recovery.
Federal Programs Available to Help You at Work
There are 2 different programs that I want to make you aware of and those are the FMLA and the ADA.
The FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act. You might be aware of it if you’ve had a baby
because this is the program that allowed you to take time off from work without being penalized. Well, the FMLA also covers time off when you are ill, including mental illnesses such as PTSD. This will allow up to 12 weeks’ time off without pay per calendar year. This time can be taken all at once or broken up into shorter time segments to cover for example a doctor’s appointment. More information can be found here.
The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act gives people with documented disabilities certain rights including:
1. Your employer may not fire you because of your disability (PTSD)
2. Your employer may not discriminate against you because of your disability
3. Your employer is required to make “reasonable accommodations” for your disability. This might include things like time off for doctor's appointments, a quiet work space, or extra time to complete assignments.
4. You are not required to disclose to your employer what your disability is. You might want to, but that is completely up to you and by law, you do not have to tell them.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the ADA and if you qualify for these protections, please check out the government website here. You also can ask your HR department at work, and they should be able to help you.
If you are currently experiencing PTSD symptoms that are disturbing you at work, there are definitely things you can do now to lessen the impact. However, know that this is a very treatable problem, and the sooner you start treating it, the better and faster your recovery will be. If you are interested in talking with me about trauma treatment, please contact me here. I’d love to hear from you!