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Creating a Stable Work-Life Balance with PTSD

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The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Stable Work-Life Balance with PTSD When it comes to creating a quality work-life schedule, reducing your stress and keeping track of your health is the foundation of a healthy balance. Some people may only need to adjust their social life and time dedicated to hobbies. However, there are others that may find navigating both the workplace and social events because of a mental health condition like PTSD. Posttraumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD, is a mental health condition developed by people who have experienced traumatic events.

These traumatic memories can make navigating certain situations more difficult, depending on the “triggers” that may have developed. Triggers induce a state of extreme anxiety, hypervigilance, and stress, which may include loud sounds, crowded areas, or anything that may specifically remind you of the traumatic experience. While this may make normal life seem more difficult, there are a number of ways you can maintain a stable work-life balance with PTSD.

Adjusting to the Workplace

Your work environment could be one of the most difficult places for interactions. For example, if you work in a loud environment and you’ve experienced PTSD from time in the military, you’re likely to run into triggers more often. On the other hand, your anxiety may be heightened from something like being alone in a room with another individual. Regardless of what your specific triggers may be, it may not be possible for you to completely change career paths in order to reduce your hypersensitivity to your surroundings.

Instead, you can make adjustments to your workload that may be able to lessen the stress you're under. When you're already anxious or frustrated, maybe because of upcoming deadlines or an increase in projects, this can heighten your sensitivity to the environment. On top of trying to keep your workload at a manageable size, make sure you have preparations in place for scheduled events so you're not worrying about any last-minute scrambling. You can also try some of these tips to help block out triggers and stay focused throughout the day:

  • Wear headphones to block out background noise
  • Take bathroom breaks or walks around the workplace for alone time
  • Reduce time spent in crowded break rooms or cramped meetings
  • Contrastly, work in a shared space if you can’t feel isolated
  • Maintain a clean work area and avoid clutter
  • Stick to working only during your required time to reduce excess stress
Improving Your Environments

On top of adjusting to your workplace, you may find social events complicated when trying to avoid an increase in anxiety. However, avoiding triggers by drastically reducing your time with friends, family, and loved ones can be just as detrimental to your mental health. Instead, you can take initiative by taking preventative measures and improving your environment.

First, going to counseling and therapy can help improve your reactions to triggers and reduce stress. Your mental health care provider can also provide you with coping skills and tips to gradually grant you closure from the traumatic events. With the help from them and your support system, you can more easily navigate social situations.

Focus on what you can control: places you visit, the number of people around you, etc. Stick around "safe zones" like shops, restaurants, or other hang-out spots that you're familiar and comfortable with. On the other hand, if you enjoy traveling and exploring new places, do thorough research beforehand so you're prepared for any potential interactions that could increase your stress or hypersensitivity. On top of this, you can also create a "stress plan".

Stable Work-Life Balance with PTSD Creating a Stress Plan

Even when you carefully adjust your surroundings at home or even at work, there may be moments where you can’t anticipate stress or triggers for your PTSD. In these cases, it’s important to have something like a “stress plan” to help you navigate these difficult moments.

Finding a Quiet Place or Stepping Away

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to find a quiet, secluded spot. This could be simply closing your office door, taking a trip to the bathroom, or a quick walk around the hallways or stairwell. When you experience heightened anxiety, the presence of other people may make you feel trapped or closed off.

In each case, a person’s triggers can be different depending on the root of their PTSD. For some people, being alone may worsen the effects of their triggers, increasing the risk of a panic attack. In this case, try to find a comfortable environment with little background noise that may bother you, but with enough people that you don’t feel isolated.

Practicing Anxiety-Reducing Exercises

Unfortunately, there may be times when finding a quiet spot to be alone immediately is difficult, such as in the middle of a meeting. There are a number of exercises that can help to reduce the stress you're feeling as you try to bring your breathing and heart rate under control to reduce the effects of a panic attack.

Breathing exercises are some of the most common and simple ways to reduce rising anxiety. By controlling your breathing, you can regulate your heartbeat in order to ease the feeling of panic. You can also try muscle relaxation techniques, depending on the environment you’re in, to relieve any tension in your body. Each technique works differently for everyone in various situations, so it’s important to try as many as you feel necessary to feel comfortable.

Alerting Your Support System

Finally, contact your support system if you're in need of assistance during a panic attack caused by PTSD. A support system is a group of trusted individuals with that you feel comfortable expressing yourself without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. While they don't necessarily need to know the details of your condition to be able to help, it can be beneficial to explain some of the triggers that may affect you more often.

It’s important to have a quality group of individuals that include your close friends, family, and even a mental health care provider. By communicating with them when you feel panicked, whether it’s in person or over the phone, you may feel less alone. They may also have suggestions to help you during the specific instance, such as where you may be able to go for a break or what you should tune in to in order to focus your senses and mind. Taking Your Time
For anyone that’s attempting to develop a quality work-life balance, it’s all about pacing. This is especially true for individuals with PTSD. Pacing yourself, giving yourself enough time for tasks, and reducing your stress can help to decrease anxiety levels. Living a normal life is entirely possible with PTSD, it just may take a few extra steps and care to ensure you have the same peace of mind.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 21st August 2022.

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