Simple steps for managing Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms
The symptoms of post traumatic stress are part of the body and brain’s response to threat.
They are intended to keep the individual physically ready to deal with further threat and this can continue until the brain has switched off the alarm system. Unfortunately, reminders of the threat can keep triggering the alarm making it difficult for the person to ever feel safe. This leaves them agitated, anxious, angry and unable to relax. Sleep and appetite will be disturbed and the body may experience chronic stress symptoms.
The brain needs to make sense of the experience, extract learning, rebuild cognitive processes and store the memory correctly. It may continue to go over the event, looking at “what-ifs” and remembering aspects of it vividly, sometimes during sleep.
Individuals may feel numb or detached from others. They may avoid going anywhere associated with what happened. This is basically safety behaviour, protecting the individual from further distress or danger. However it can cause conflict in relationships and an inability to return to normal day to day life.
There are many things that those affected can do to help their natural recovery:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Reducing stimulants such as caffeine
- Limiting exposure to distressing media coverage
- Taking regular exercise
- Keeping a diary of thoughts and feelings
- Eating regular, well-balanced meals
- Setting small, realistic goals
- Finding out more about Traumatic Stress
When to seek professional help
Sometimes it can help to get professional support
- Where it is difficult to manage any of the reactions being experienced
- Where those affected do not have someone to share their thoughts, feelings and experience with and they think this would be helpful
- If someone feels despair or has thoughts of harming themselves
- If there are any concerns about how they, or the people around them, are reacting
- If, after a month, there are no significant signs of improvement
There are many effective treatments such as trauma-focused CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing). These are therapies that have been thoroughly researched (link to https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg26).
However many people, particularly from the more high-risk industries often don’t want to, or are unable to, seek traditional face to face support.
Typical reasons include
- The stigma of accessing treatment
- Access issues such as location, working hours or getting time off work
- A lack of confidence that treatment would work
- A lack of trust in confidentiality, e.g. medical records being disclosed to employer
- A fear of repercussions, e.g. being removed from the job
Dr Liz Royle spent many years researching the reasons behind the stigma of help-seeking following traumatic events.
We all vary in what we need and the KTRS Power to Recover™ blended e-health trauma programme was developed to reduce these barriers and meet the needs of people who were currently not accessing trauma support for a variety of reasons. At KRTS International, we believe we should always be seeking new knowledge and creating innovative and effective solutions to the problem of workplace trauma.