Making the workplace safe by recognizing the signs of trauma
Whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur, the workplace is one of the most important areas of your life. You spend roughly one-third of your life at work with most of your time and energy going toward building connections, honing your professional skillset, improving personal development, and making a name for yourself. Whether you’re in it for a paycheck or your work is your life’s passion, the reality is that work directly impacts how you feel and behave in every area of your life.
Your workplace can either build your self-confidence up or tear your self-esteem down. The good news is that you can decide what you do about it. Workplace trauma occurs when you experience psychological, emotional, or physical trauma that impacts your mental and physical well-being within a professional work environment. It is essential to recognize that anyone can be affected by workplace trauma. That’s why it’s vital to have coping strategies in place to help you recover and reclaim your agency.
Recognizing The Signs of Workplace Trauma
It’s critical to pay attention to the signs of workplace trauma and take action to address them if you want a more supportive and inclusive work environment. These signs may include physical, emotional, or behavioral changes like:
Persistent headaches, digestion issues, high blood pressure, or difficulty sleeping
Anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, irritability, or feelings of helplessness
Becoming more isolated, lack of motivation, or distant from colleagues
Decreased productivity, difficulty concentrating, and increased absenteeism
Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with coworkers
For women of color and other marginalized groups, this type of trauma can manifest in different ways, like becoming more defensive or shutting down emotionally, which impacts work performance, job satisfaction, and career progression. Utilizing professional mental health services like EMDR therapy with a trusted trauma therapist can help you recover from workplace trauma by processing traumatic memories and integrating coping habits that reduce those life-altering symptoms.
Combating The Effects Of Workplace Trauma
Workplace trauma can be particularly difficult to navigate for women of color as well as those with disabilities and in the LGBTQ+ community as they face added challenges such as discrimination and microaggressions. Because of this, it is essential to prioritize self-care and seek support from trusted friends, family, and culturally competent mental health professionals like a black therapist who can understand your lived experience. Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas gives a sense of solidarity that can help you overcome it. Here are ways to set clear boundaries for a healthy work-life balance that safeguards against burnout, anxiety, and stress in the workplace:
Use relaxation methods like meditation or deep breathing
Journal your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and goals
Take your breaks and rest whenever you need it
Clock out on time, don’t bring work home, and use your PTO
Take care of yourself by eating well, hydration, and movement
Start a new hobby or learn a creative skill that you enjoy
Advocate For Yourself and Reclaim Your Agency
Workplace trauma is a devastating and disempowering experience that leaves you feeling vulnerable, unsupported, and unsure of how to move forward. Fortunately, you have the power to reclaim your agency and advocate for yourself. Here are some steps you can take to start healing your trauma:
Find and join supportive communities online and in-person
Clearly and openly communicate your experience, needs, and goals with colleagues, supervisors, and Human Resources
Educate yourself on worker’s rights and your employer’s policies
Seek trauma therapy or legal advice if your rights are violated
Set boundaries with colleagues and prioritize self-preservation
Learning how to recognize, combat, and advocate to heal from workplace trauma is a serious matter. Unfortunately, the reality is that too many employees suffer in silence. KQH Counseling provides culturally competent therapy services and mental health resources to help women of color cope with anxiety, depression, post-partum depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Remember that it's okay to seek help and support from trusted coworkers, supervisors, and a qualified trauma therapist. Don't let workplace trauma hold you back from balancing your full professional potential with a healthy and fulfilling life.
Zippia.com (2022). "What Is The Average Work Hours Per Week In The US?" https://www.zippia.com/advice/average-work-hours-per-week