by Laura Geftman, LCSW
I have a number of friends who have high risk jobs involving trauma. I often call them “superheros.” I joke they should wear capes and have comic books written about them. But the one thing I don’t joke about with them is their self care.
While my friends can’t fly or scale the tallest buildings, their jobs often subject them to experiencing, witnessing or hearing about all kinds of traumatic events. Often it’s not just one event but many, and time after time. High risk professions are most associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So who are these brave people and what do they do…
TYPES OF HIGH-RISK PROFESSIONALS
Here’s the list of the seven types of high-risk professionals:
- Military Personnel
- Law Enforcement
- Emergence Medical / Ambulance Personnel
- Healthcare Professionals
- First Responders (rescue workers, medical workers, volunteers)
EFFECTS OF TRAUMA
If you have a high-risk job that made the list- and even if your’s didn’t- let’s review the effects of trauma. The effects of trauma really vary from person to person depending on the type of trauma, age of the person who experienced the trauma, and frequency/severity of their exposure.
Symptoms include: flashbacks, nightmares, painful memories, strong emotions. Scary stuff…that can be managed.
So how do you deal with the scary stuff? Good question. Glad you asked. Really. Avoidance is all too commonly used as a coping strategy. It is very acceptable as it’s natural to avoid the memories, people, places, and situations that are associated with traumatic events.
In order to effectively cope with trauma, you should consider understanding your experience and processing it. Some people do so as a self-guided process and other with the support of a trained professional.
It can often feel overwhelming or frightening to seek help. This a common worry. Asking for help and finding the person to understand isn’t always an easy process but when you do it’s so affirming and healing.
Many are afraid to seek help fearing they will have to talk about their traumatic experience. They worry about how they will cope following their appointment. It’s important to know that therapists aren’t going to make you talk about anything you don’t want to. They don’t want you to be retraumatized or re-live your trauma. They want to help you process your thoughts and feelings such that you can move through.
Whether you choose to go it alone or with the support of a professional, here are some coping strategies:
1. Reach out for help. Whether you talk to a coworker, friend or a therapist, it’s important to talk about your thoughts and feelings about what you’ve encountered with someone who is a source of comfort. Don’t bottle it up. Talk it through.
2. Plan for self care. Yup, just like planning to go to the gym, incorporate self care into your schedule. Actually making time for it in your day will ensure that you do it.
3. Creating a Safe Space. It’s important that you surround that you find a place- real or imagined- where you feel safe. Think pillows, candles, blankets, etc…all that things that help you feel okay. It’s important that it is an accessible place you can go to whenever you need it.
4. Grounding strategies. Activities where you focus on your five sense- see, hear, smell, touch, taste- help to ground you. Find what works for you- relaxation breathing, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, mindfulness.
5. Self-compassion. Gaining more understanding about your response allows you to have more compassion for yourself and your experience. It’s important to find way to remind yourself that the way you respond is understandable given the experiences you have had.
Trauma is brought on when a person perceived incidence as unexpected, unpreventable, uncontrollable, resulting from intentional cruelty, and possibly related to a childhood event. In the lines of work above, these experiences are plentiful.
It’s important to learn more about responses to trauma and develop strategies to prepare to respond to potential trauma. Do you have more suggestions about way to cope with trauma? Let’s help each other. Comment below with your suggestions.
About Laura Geftman, LCSW
Laura Geftman, LCSW is the Founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected and a practicing therapist. Beyond all things cannabis and mental health, Laura is passionate about developing greater understanding for kindness and acceptance. In her free time, Laura can be found on her yoga mat, in a kayak or singing karaoke.
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