The Guide to Managing
PTSD As A Tradesman
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a daily battle for anyone afflicted. It can affect your home life, your social life, and even your professional life. The job of a tradesman can be especially tricky when it comes to PTSD — the environment is often chaotic, always noisy, and tough conditions can make workers edgy, paving the way for conflict. These issues can be further amplified if there is an underlying addiction issue, which is quite common in those with PTSD. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to manage both your condition and addiction recovery in healthy ways while still giving a strong performance in your trade.
This guide will help you learn to understand why you may face greater risk of PTSD episodes as a tradesman, ways to prevent them, and how to handle triggers you encounter. You should never feel ashamed to seek help in managing your PTSD, so be sure to keep in touch with your doctor or counselor. Never take any medication or make any major health changes without professional guidance.
Life Of A TradesmanHow and why your PTSD may be triggered
If your clients or colleagues are completely unaware of your situation, it can lead to even greater problems. First, if they have no reason to believe you might be somewhat sensitive, they can’t actively take steps to avoid problems before they start. Second, if there is a situation where your PTSD symptoms come into play, they may not be as willing to step back and walk away, leading to potentially explosive conflict. Finally, even if the dispute gets resolved, they may not be able to shake off your extreme reaction as heat-of-the-moment.
This kind of unstable environment may even lead to flashbacks, which can be overwhelming and debilitating for many with PTSD. As you begin to identify what triggers you into episodes, to some extent you may be able to avoid these situations. For a recently-retired Army vet who spent several years in Afghanistan, the sound of a nail gun could unexpectedly trigger memories of gunfire and send his or her mind right back overseas. An abuse survivor could be so alarmed by unanticipated — albeit harmless — physical contact that he or she loses all sense of personal security.
Preventing and Overcoming PTSD Symptoms At WorkThere are many ways to reduce PTSD episodes in the workplace
How supportive is the person likely to be?
What type of company culture is there?
Do you need to disclose everything, or should you be selective?
Recognizing The Triggers
Once you know what to avoid, do so as much as possible. Avoid particularly stressful situations, including coworkers you butt heads with. You could talk to your boss about switching from working inside the building — where the echoes of hammering make you uneasy — to an exterior project. Or you could limit the kinds of jobs you accept as a private contractor. You could even consider adjusting your work hours; if your mood tends to decline later in the day, for example, ask your boss about coming in earlier so you can leave before the drop.
If too much noise and commotion is impairing your ability to concentrate, you may consider noise-canceling headphones. Be sure everyone is aware so you don’t miss any emergency announcements or warnings; many loud worksites use hand signals to communicate amid constant noise, but if it’s new to your group, you’ll need to establish them.
If an episode does occur despite your best efforts, take a step back and try to calm your mind. Focus on the current moment. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you’re safe; it may help to open your eyes and look around to prove to yourself the where and when of your current situation. Don’t let the intrusive thoughts get to you — you will survive this episode.
If your symptoms are still giving you problems after a few minutes, take a short break. It may help to go outside for some fresh air and sunshine, or even a walk around the block. You can listen to soothing music on your phone, practice some relaxation techniques, or write in a journal. If you’re able to give your partner (or another confidante) a quick call, take the opportunity to vent.
Whether it’s stress from work, your PTSD, or a combination of both, it’s incredibly important to cope with stress in healthy ways. Even if you haven’t previously had any substance use issues in the past, you should be careful not to start any destructive habits like binge drinking or turning to drugs to numb the pain. Drugs and alcohol may temporarily make symptoms subside, but ultimately will only exacerbate them. Substance abuse can deepen already unbearable depression, increase dangerous or risky behavior, and even lead to suicidal thoughts.
If you feel that your aversion to drinking puts you at a disadvantage with coworker relations — for example, your crew may like to go to happy hour on Fridays — see about planning dry events. Instead of happy hour, go bowling or blow off some steam at the go-kart track. There are plenty of ways to bond with coworkers that don’t involve alcohol, and no one has to know why you choose to abstain. You may even find that some of your colleagues will embrace a dry event, especially if families are invited to join!
If your PTSD continues to impair your work life no matter what you do, make an appointment with your doctor or counselor to specifically address that issue. Don’t plan to bring it up at your next scheduled appointment or call when you “get time.” He or she may know of an effective therapy, medication, or other course of treatment you’ll need his or her guidance for, and the sooner you contact them, the sooner you can get back on track.
Another important part of coping with PTSD is to avoid shaming yourself for being afflicted. Build a strong support system at home, and try to let your loved ones be there for you as much as you can. Seek out support groups in your community, or even find an online outlet where you can talk to others who completely understand what you’re going through. There are millions of people who are learning to bounce back from a battle with PTSD — you are not alone, and you can conquer it.