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Coping With Your PTSD at Work

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Updated February 26, 2010

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If you have a diagnosis of PTSD (or even if you are simply experiencing just a few symptoms of PTSD), you may have found that it is incredibly difficulty to manage PTSD at work.

The symptoms of PTSD can be quite debilitating, interfering greatly with many aspects of a person's life. For example, you may feel disconnected or detached from loved ones, and as a result, relationships with friends and family may suffer. You may find that you experience less pleasure when engaging in activities or hobbies that you used to enjoy. You may notice that you become highly anxious and on edge when you are around large crowds, and therefore, you avoid leaving your house. Finally, you may find work to be a particularly stressful experience.

Situations associated with the work environment can be particularly stressful for a person with PTSD. For instance, your work may require you to attend meetings which might make the person with PTSD feel on guard and trapped. A work environment may also have loud, unexpected noises that can trigger a strong startle response in someone with PTSD. You may be forced to interact with people that you feel disconnected or detached from. Finally, the concentration and sleep problems associated with PTSD may make it difficult to be productive and attentive at work.

Although it may be particularly difficult to manage PTSD symptoms while at work, work is a situation that few people can avoid. Therefore, it is very important to come up with ways of coping with your PTSD symptoms while at work. Listed below are just a few tips that may help you in better managing your PTSD symptoms during the work day.

Know Your Symptoms

Regardless of whether you are coping with your PTSD symptoms at work, in relationships, or going shopping, it is very important that you know what PTSD symptoms you are experiencing. Having a good understanding of how you experience your PTSD provides a strong foundation for all other coping skills. It is very difficult to manage symptoms if you cannot recognize them in the first place. Therefore, it can be important to spend some time reading about PTSD and monitoring your experience. By doing this, you can gain an increased awareness of what PTSD symptoms you are experiencing and what they feel like.

Know Your Triggers

Monitoring can also be a very helpful way of increasing awareness of triggers for your PTSD symptoms. For example, are there certain activities, places, or conversations that bring up unpleasant memories or thoughts about a traumatic event? Do crowds activate hyperarousal symptoms for you? Does seeing particular images cause you to have nightmares? Monitor your experience while at work or think about situations that you may encounter at work that could be triggering.

Come Up With a List of Ways to Cope with Triggers

Once you have identified what PTSD symptoms you are experience and what kind of situations trigger those symptoms, plan ahead. List all of the ways that you can cope with those triggers should you encounter them. Write these coping strategies down on a note card and carry this note card with you at all times. Then, when you encounter a trigger and experience PTSD symptoms, go down the list until you find a coping strategy that helps you manage your PTSD symptoms. Remember, the more strategies you have available to you, the better off you will be in managing your triggers.

Practice Your Coping Strategies

As stated above, the more coping strategies you have available to you, the better off you will be in managing your PTSD symptoms. Therefore, it is important to practice a number of coping strategies. Get comfortable with them in a number of different situations. This way, when you need them, it will be easier to enact them.

It is also important to remember that some coping strategies work really well in some situations but not so well in others. For example, expressive writing may be a great coping strategy when you have a good amount of time to sit down and reflect on your experience; however, it may not be the best strategy during a busy work day. Coping strategies that can work really well in a short amount of time are deep breathing, mindfulness, and grounding skills. These coping skills can be done pretty much anywhere, whether you are in a meeting, at lunch, or on your way to work.

Come Up With a Plan for Coping with Unexpected Situations

Even with the best planning, the occurrence of PTSD symptoms can be unpredictable. Therefore, it is important to create a safety plan for coping with them when they occur. For example, it may be helpful to keep a list of supportive people you can call. Make sure you put more than one number on the list in case the first person you call is not available. If you have a therapist and you are able to contact him or her outside of session, you may want his or her name on your list as well. If you are on PRN medication (medication taken as needed), make sure that you have it with you in case you are in a situation where you need it. Make sure you also have your list of coping strategies available. When you are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, it can be difficult to come up with a good coping plan. By having the coping strategy list available, you won't have to think on your feet.

Finally, it can be important to come up with some explanations in case you have to excuse yourself from a situation. Plan ahead to what you might say to excuse yourself from the room if your PTSD symptoms are triggered while you are in a meeting or at lunch with co-workers. The goal of this strategy is not avoidance, but instead, giving you the opportunity to be alone so that you can best enact effective coping strategies for your PTSD symptoms.

Coping with your PTSD symptoms at work can be a very difficult thing to do. However, through careful planning and preparation, you can find ways to limit the extent with which PTSD interferes with your life.

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  5. Coping with PTSD and Anxiety
  6. PTSD at Work - Coping with PTSD at Work

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