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Coping with the Effects of Trauma at Work – Strategies for Resilience and Recovery

Coping with the effects of trauma at work can be challenging, but it’s essential for one’s wellbeing and professional growth. In this blog, we’ll explore what workplace trauma entails and provide strategies to help employees cope, heal, and build resilience.

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In the fast-paced world of modern employment, workplaces can often become settings for trauma, both subtle and profound. Trauma at work can take various forms, from distressing incidents like workplace accidents or violence to the more insidious effects of ongoing stress, harassment, or discrimination.

Understanding Workplace Trauma

Workplace trauma can manifest in numerous ways, and it often goes unrecognised. Here are some common forms of workplace trauma:

1. Physical Trauma: This includes accidents or injuries that occur on the job. Workplace accidents, such as falls or machinery-related injuries, can lead to physical and emotional trauma.

2. Psychological Trauma: This encompasses emotional distress, such as experiencing or witnessing violence, harassment, discrimination, or bullying at work. The long-term effects of such experiences can be profound.

3. Chronic Stress: A high-stress work environment, constant pressure to meet deadlines, or dealing with a toxic work culture can result in chronic stress, leading to emotional and physical health issues.

4. Burnout: Prolonged exposure to excessive workloads and demands without adequate support can lead to burnout, characterised by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced job performance.

Recognising the Effects of Workplace Trauma

Understanding the signs and effects of workplace trauma is the first step in coping with it. Employees who have experienced trauma at work may exhibit a range of physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. These symptoms may include:

Physical Symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, or chronic pain.
Emotional Symptoms: Anxiety, depression, irritability, and a heightened sense of fear or vulnerability.

Behavioural Symptoms: Withdrawal from colleagues, reduced productivity, or engaging in self-destructive behaviours.

Coping with workplace trauma requires a multi-faceted approach, and it often starts with seeking help and support.

Self-Care and Resilience-Building

1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices can help you stay grounded and manage stress. Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine can significantly improve your emotional wellbeing.

2. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Pay attention to your physical health by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. These habits can boost your resilience and ability to cope with stress.

3. Set Boundaries: Clearly define your boundaries at work and communicate them to your colleagues. This helps in preventing additional stressors and managing work-related trauma.

4. Develop a Support Network: Reach out to friends and family for emotional support. Sharing your experiences with trusted individuals can help you process the trauma and feel less isolated.

Mindfulness practices can help you stay grounded and manage stress

Coping Strategies

1. Journaling: Writing about your experiences can be a therapeutic way to process trauma. It allows you to express your emotions and make sense of what happened.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Techniques: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises can help reframe negative thought patterns and develop more adaptive responses to workplace trauma.

3. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): Also known as tapping, EFT involves gently tapping on specific meridian points while focusing on the traumatic issue. It can be effective in reducing emotional distress.

4. Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Understand that coping with trauma is a process, and it’s okay to have moments of struggle. Practicing self-compassion can alleviate self-criticism.

5. Employee Assistance Programme: This is an ideal resource to tap into. Your company’s EAP provides confidential counselling and support services to help employees cope with various issues. They can signpost to relevant information and content to support, too.

HR Support

If the trauma at work is related to harassment, discrimination, or any unlawful behaviour, don’t hesitate to seek support by informing your HR department. In such cases, your organisation should take appropriate actions to address the issues and protect your rights. 

Returning to Work After Trauma

Returning to work after experiencing trauma can be daunting. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Gradual Return: Discuss the possibility of a gradual return to work with your employer. This can help you readjust and manage your workload more effectively.

2. Open Communication: Keep the lines of communication open with your colleagues and supervisors. Inform them about any specific needs or accommodations you may require during your transition back to work.

3. Self-Assessment: Regularly assess your wellbeing and seek additional support if necessary. It’s essential to prioritise your recovery and not push yourself too hard.

Conclusion

Coping with the effects of workplace trauma is a journey that requires time and patience. The key is to seek support, practice self-care, and develop resilience. Remember that healing is possible, and you don’t have to face workplace trauma alone. By following the strategies outlined in this blog and seeking professional help, you can take important steps towards recovery and wellbeing.

Workplaces must be safe and supportive environments. If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of workplace trauma, don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR department and our Employee Assistance Programme or seek the assistance of mental health professionals.

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