PTSD is hard enough to deal with in all other aspects of your life, but at work it can have detrimental effects upon your job. Certain situations at work can be extremely stressful to someone suffering from PTSD. For example, if all of a sudden you hear a loud and unexpected noise that triggers you or you have to attend a meeting which makes you feel on guard or trapped, these can be difficult to deal with. It is likely that you will have to interact with people who you feel disconnected and detached from, which ends up just being awkward and propels you further into that feeling of “I don’t belong”. Lack of sleep and problems with concentration also make it difficult to be productive and attentive while at work. Don’t worry though, there are some things we can do about this.
Know Your Symptoms
No matter the situation in which you are coping with PTSD it is incredibly important to know what PTSD symptoms you experience personally. It is very difficult to manage your symptoms if you can’t recognize them in the first place. To learn more about managing your symptoms look at my article “Combat PTSD: Managing Your Symptoms“
Know Your Triggers
You need to know what triggers your symptoms, are there certain sights, sounds, smells, conversations, crowds or anything else that triggers one of or multiple symptoms? Bring your A-game of awareness to work and monitor your experiences, think about any encounters you may have with triggering stimuli while at work. For a little extra information on triggers you can read “Combat PTSD: Triggers” to learn more.
Make a Trigger Coping List
Now that you know your symptoms AND you know what triggers your symptoms don’t be a slouch and just wait for them to come up to deal with them, take action now. Make a list of all the ways you can cope with each of the triggers you may encounter while in the work place. A good idea is to write these down on a note card which you will carry on you at all times. Once you encounter a trigger you can bust out your handy-dandy note card and find a coping strategy which will best help you in the situation you face. The more strategic ways you have of combating your symptoms, the better you will be at managing your symptoms and your triggers.
Practice Your Strategies
Getting comfortable with your varying strategies to cope with your triggers in various situations is very important. Ever heard the saying “practice makes perfect”? If you try to use a coping mechanism you’ve never tried in a certain situation it could end up not being very effective. Some strategies are great for some situations and not so great for others. For instance, if you have a lot of time, journaling about what happened would be great; however, if you are in the work place it wouldn’t be such a feasible option. Short time strategies such as grounding, deep breathing, and mindfulness can be done almost anywhere at any time. Know what works for you by practicing.
Plan For The Unexpected
Anyone who has ever been in the military knows that no matter how elaborate or well rehearsed the plan is it can go south real quick by the unexpected. So what do we need? A contingency plan. When all else fails and you just got slapped in the nut sack by your PTSD you need to have a back up plan for that unexpected trigger. First off, make sure you have your coping strategy list. Under stress it will be a lot harder to think on your feet, but with the list you won’t need to. Second, have a list of trusted people to call: friends, family, a therapist, a hot line, anyone you need. Third, have an explanation ready if you need to leave a situation such as a meeting or a lunch date with co-workers. This is not an avoidance strategy, but a strategy to give you the space you need in order to properly deal with your PTSD.
PTSD will only rule over your life if you let it. I understand first hand how difficult it is to manage PTSD, especially at work, but the prep work you put into managing your symptoms and triggers will greatly reduce how PTSD interferes with your life. Take a stand and take control, rise above PTSD, you are strong and it’s time you start believing in yourself.