Post-Traumatic Stress: Dealing With Harsh Events In The Workplace

Post-Traumatic Stress: Dealing With Harsh Events In The Workplace

Hi everyone and happy Monday! I believe that everyone should feel mentally and physically safe in the environments that they are in. Whether it be at home, school, or work, being subjected to a traumatizing situation is not okay. Here is some advice for how to deal with not so nice events in the workplace.

Post-Traumatic Stress: Dealing With Harsh Events In The Workplace:

We are used to talking about stress as something that builds over time due to an ongoing situation. You have more work to deal with than you can handle and every day the pile grows. You are concerned about a health issue but worried about going to the doctor. You have an impending house move to get sorted out but not enough time to do anything.

All of these situations are classic stressors. But as they grow over time, they are what experts define as “chronic” stress. They certainly need to be addressed. You need to address the source of your stress before you can handle the situation efficiently. But there are other sources of stress that need to be approached differently because they work in a different way. These are cases of “acute stress” where the cause is something more sudden or immediate.

It’s obvious that the main place where people feel stressed is at work. Deadlines loom and the penalty for going over them is severe. People talk at you from all angles and you feel like you’re not giving any of them the attention they’re looking for. There is noise, light, and movement – all of which can make you feel overstimulated. And there is precious little scope for release.

All of these can aggravate the stress that arises when something happens to make you feel anxious. Acute stress is caused by not having the time or the chance to process something awful that has happened. And often the last person to know it is the person suffering. They may try to lose themselves in their work, when the thing causing their stress is related to that work.

Death Of A Co-Worker: Many of us – not all – have experienced the raw emotion that comes with a co-worker dying. In many cases this is sudden but even if it is after a long illness the death is still a trigger point. Certainly, in the former case it can be hard to process. You hear people say things like “but I was speaking to her only yesterday” and “he seemed fine in Monday’s meeting”. When you only see someone for eight-hour bursts in a day, them suddenly not being there can shake you.

This happens all the more often in high-stakes jobs like emergency medicine and police work. Many employers in these industries make a point of advising doctors, nurses, and officers on how to deal with a colleague’s passing. Knowing how to deal with it is one thing but dealing with it is another. And in these situations, the “he seemed fine” line is all the more potent.

Abuse In The Workplace: As much as we may enjoy our jobs most of the time, the fact is that we are in something of a captive situation. If we want to pay the bills, we have to show up when we’re scheduled to work and stay for the duration. This is what makes it all the more unpleasant if we are the victim of workplace abuse.

Workplace abuse can take many forms. It can be the bullying of a co-worker who takes pleasure from insulting us on our looks or anything else. It can be an unreasonable boss who blames us for errors that aren’t ours. It can be customers who take their frustration with the company out on us. Or it can be sexual harassment, often from a senior co-worker who has the ability to make us feel it is our fault.

All of these issues are made worse by the feeling that we are trapped with the perpetrators of our abuse. It’s essential to report it, if it happens. If a culture of bullying is allowed to develop, it can lead to dreadful consequences. As a minimum, critical incident stress management from Health Assured or similar is needed. If your job starts to feel like a prison, stress can become dangerous.


Pixabay image

A Violent Incident: Violence in the workplace can range from someone behaving aggressively to a mass-casualty attack. The people affected will include those in the line of fire, obviously, but also anyone who witnessed the incident. In the case of an attack, it can also affect the first responders and even those who weren’t there that day.

The lower grade of incident may seem like nothing to some people. What’s a little banging of desks and shouting in a pressurized workplace? But it can make people feel threatened – as the situation may escalate at short notice. And being in a workplace where there is the risk of violence is stressful. The higher grade can make people feel scared to come back to work.

Even for those who weren’t there, the consequences can be stressful. You may feel that if you had been there, you could have done something. Or that the people who suffered were innocent victims, and that by being there you could have taken their place. In such situations, it is beneficial for employers to provide an outlet. After-the-fact debriefing and counseling can help heal a workplace. After a period of recovery and, if necessary, mourning, it can let people move forward.

Acute stress is less common than the chronic form of the condition but is no less dangerous. As with chronic stress, the person experiencing it may not even realize what it is. It can be brushed off as “just not feeling quite right” or being tired. This is what makes stress so dangerous. It works unseen and can affect one’s physical or mental health.

People who don’t realize that they are suffering from stress will often push it to the back of their minds. They won’t seek help for something physical that may be aggravated by it and become seriously ill. They may not look for the emotional support they need, suppress their issues, and end up having a more acute reaction later on.

For all of these reasons it is essential to take action. To ensure that people faced with a stressful situation have an outlet for their feelings, yes. But also to make sure that a workplace can come together after a situation stronger than before.

Featured Image By: Pixabay


7 responses »

  1. I agree that the stress of workplace bullying and violence can cause serious health issues. Considering that recent reports from the Workplace Bullying Institute indicate that more than half of all workers confirm witnessing or experiences workplace abuse – many of us and our colleagues are experiencing work related stress. Having actionable choices on how to deal with this workplace epidemic are critical. Good job!


  2. Pingback: What Dangers Lurk At Work? | lifewithlilred

  3. Pingback: High Tension: How To Deal With Stress More Effectively | lifewithlilred

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