Recovering from Trauma on the Job: How to Get Back to Working Well

There’s a difference between experiencing something frustrating at work and experiencing something traumatic. 

Trauma is something painful that you keep coming back to emotionally. Frustration is something that hurts for a moment, then disappears once the problem is resolved. While everyone gets frustrated in the workplace, experiencing a traumatic event can jeopardize your stability.

Think about it: if you were unexpectedly let go, that sudden change in income, routine, and community can drastically change your life. 

Being bullied by a power-hungry or discriminatory manager can affect your self-esteem, motivation, and emotional regulation on the clock.

Experiencing the death of a colleague can cause you to avoid building relationships at work or fear for your own safety, especially if the death was work-related.

There are many things that can cause work-related trauma, but there are also many things we can do to combat the hold it has on us. Here’s how you can recover from trauma on the job and get back to working well. 

I Encourage You: Feel. Everything.

Leaving a toxic workplace is step one. Step two is finally letting yourself feel everything you used to hold back because you were on company time. 

Drop the professionalism—you don’t have to paint the experience as better than it was. When you work in survival mode, you numbly navigate every day without checking in with yourself. You let the little things go, and they can build up in the body as tense muscles, headaches, or other unexplained pains.

Breaking down on the job is a risk to your productivity, but now that there’s nothing to produce, give yourself permission to let the tears fall. Clear your schedule for a week or two and spend your time doing things that re-energize you. 

This is a great time to journal, meditate, get active, and work with a mental health professional to unearth situations you don’t want to repeat in your next role. 

Connect with People Who Get It

If you were one of the only people of color at your company and the trauma was racially-motivated, it’s important that you find someone who really gets it. If you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace because of your gender or sexuality, same thing. 

Choose loved ones who share these traits with you to avoid any possible microaggressions from well-intentioned people. It will only get in the way of the healing process.

Ask Yourself: What Do I Want Next?

Once you have emotional support, move on to the planning stage. Ask yourself questions like…

  • Did I like working in that industry or should I explore new paths?
  • Are there any unhealthy patterns that I want to address before taking on a new role?
  • What opportunities did I pass to make space for this job? Do I want to pursue those now?
  • What did I neglect in my life to make room for my job? (Consider your relationships, physical health, mental health, personal interests, personal values, and spirituality.)

Give yourself a parting gift for getting out of a toxic workplace: a commitment to prioritizing yourself again.

It’s Not About Choosing a Job—It’s About Choosing Yourself

What’s most important to you in this life? What passions do you speak on, but never act on?

Let me be the first to tell you (if no one has already) that you don’t live to work. You work to support the life of your dreams. 

When career decisions show up, choose yourself at every turn. Ask yourself, “Is this something that I want in my job, or is this something I was taught to want?”

Trauma doesn’t disappear overnight, so it’s important to accept that while things may be looking up, you’re still in a state of healing. Falling into old habits can happen, and unexpected triggers may set you back. 

Work with a counselor to deal with the storm of emotions that follow, and show yourself compassion through it all. I’m here to support you. Please read more about trauma therapy and schedule an appointment with me today.