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Embattled from a Toxic Work Environment… What to Do for Workplace PTSD

12 Oct

                 I just left a toxic work environment, and I feel like I've been fighting a war. Can the resources used for PTSD help me?

Dear Belleruth,
I am a female doc leaving a toxic workplace, where boundaries were crossed. I was not respected as a professional. I took care of the sickest patients, and had to file a Title 9 complaint to draw attention to the hostility I experienced in the workplace.

They requested that I stay to keep the department running, which meant I would continue working 7 days a week 7A- 11 P. I am happy that I decided to leave, but I have some bitterness and bad memories that creep in and paralyze me.

I am wondering if some of the resources used for PTSD for the military would be helpful. It was a toxic workplace and I feel like I've been fighting a war, defending myself and decisions, and just trying to survive while letting go of my own personal priorities. What do you recommend?

Thanks,
Sylvia

Dear Sylvia,

Yikes, I’m happy you decided to leave too!  

I think this happens a lot more than people know, and they often don’t realize that they in fact do have posttraumatic stress from work – that they’ve been in a highly adrenergized state for way too long a time, from having taken a pounding repeatedly and, when that’s not happening, anticipating the next pounding.

Don’t be surprised if it takes a few months for those feelings to dissipate, so don’t get discouraged if they leave slowly.  We humans are geared to take survival mode very seriously. Sometimes it’s just good to remind yourself, out loud, in the mirror (hokey as this sounds): “It’s over and I don’t have to go back there anymore; I can recover now.”

I’d recommend several things. Any relaxing guided imagery is bound to be good for you.  I’d specifically recommend the Relaxation and Wellness imagery first. It’s designed to evoke feelings of safety, protection & support, and it seems like that would be just the ticket right now.

After a couple or few weeks, if you want to take it deeper, then I’d try the Posttraumatic Stress imagery, called Healing Trauma.  You might also want to use the Healthful Sleep imagery for bedtime, to keep your mind from going over those ugly ‘tapes’ in your head and set yourself up for a more restful sleep.

Traci Stein also has some wonderful meditation on Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion, including segments to listen to before sleep, and these would be great for you to try as well.

I would also do a whole mess of things under the general category of “mindful self-care” – the general idea being to do things that are consciously designed to help take gentle, good care of yourself, to find things that are very deliberately restorative and nourishing toward yourself.

This could be taking aromatherapy baths, getting regular massage or reflexology, taking the time to go for a walk or just listen to music, meeting a trustworthy friend for a luxurious meal, doing something you’ve always wanted to do… always with the idea in mind that this is your job now and part of your healing: to take good care of you, because you need it to restore your energy, self esteem and comfort in the world.

I hope some of this helps.  Drop a line and let me know how you’re doing!

All best to you,

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Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award