I have asked Dr. Angela Clack to be my guest blogger this week and she has written a awesome piece. I want this to go viral. Share it because you never know who you might help.
Workplace Induced Trauma: A Critical Need for Making Health Your Priority
“I feel I didn’t know who to turn to. “ “I can’t trust anyone on my job.” “I fear I’m going to be fired any day now.” “Why won’t anyone help me?!?.” “I get sick on Sunday evenings thinking about going to work Monday morning.” “I dread the drive to work. I can barely get out of bed.”
Although my practice only represents a small percentage of women who may seek emotional support for vocational stress, of the women that have been seen in my office for job stress, a disproportionate number have been women of African American and Hispanic descent. The clinical presentation and self-report are strikingly similar: fatigue, poor sleep, anger, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, headaches, crying spells, weight gain, negative thoughts about self, guilt, shame, and irritability.
I like to call stress the “not-so-silent killer.” Women wear a mask (or present themselves) as having it all under control until the **ish hits the fan and you just can’t take it no more! Stress or anxiety accounts for 75-90% of all visits to primary care doctors (Journal of the American Board of Family Practice (2003); 16(2): 131:47. Moreover, research has shown that excessive stress is a risk factor for every serious disease that you don’t want to have: cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc.
Women in the workplace often parallel their work role to the way they do in the home with their families. That is, we try to do everything for everybody from a caregiving role to one of rescue, manage, and save the business at the expense of our own mental and physical health. What exacerbates the stress at work are those other workplace dynamics that are best described unhealthy toxic and hostile work environments. Such as harassment, bullying, intimidation, rejection, disrespect and lack of respect for your expertise, and discrimination. Any one of these can create a hostile work environment and consequent emotional and physical health problems.
In her newly released book, Oh, Yes She Did! A Real Woman's Guide to Authentic Communication, Dr. Andrea Dardello shares her personal struggle with an emotional breakdown she had as a result of her position as a professor and a women of color who is having interpersonal issues with the director. She stated, “Increasingly, I felt trapped. Every day seemed long.” Dr. Dardello shared that one day as she was driving to work she contemplated suicide. Although she noted she loved her son and spouse and hated pain too greatly to follow through, it was enough of a wake up call for her to seek mental health counseling. She recognized she needed the necessary tools to re-channel her energy and change her thoughts.
From my own personal experience, my colleagues and I worked for an institution that did not respect the expertise that we as a team where there to provide. Some of our meetings were met with laughs and scoffs at the recommendations we made to meet the mental health needs of the population we served. This continued lack of respect and dismissive attitude toward the professionals resulted in a legal action against the entire facility, including the mental health providers. That experience could have cost us our professional license and livelihood. That was enough for me. I found a personal/professional life coach and worked towards a plan to leave that position and ultimately move into the purpose and destiny that God has indeed intended for me .
Research has shown that the experiences of women of color in the workplace differ quantitatively as well as qualitatively from those of Caucasian women and men of color (Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2008, 13 (2), 137-151.
“Although the workplace should be a non-biased safe place for its employers, this is not always the case, “asserts Dr. Dardello. Often this feeling of “work” not being a safe place can evoke a sense of helplessness and hopelessness to make improvements and thus women may accept “it is what it is” or give up after fighting the establishment for far too long. That fight takes a mental and physical toll that may look like symptoms of emotional trauma or post-traumatic stress symptoms.
PTSD is a severe and chronic condition that may occur in response to any traumatic event. The National Survey of American Life (NSAL) found that African Americans show a prevalence rate of 9.1% for PTSD versus 6.8% in non-Hispanic Whites, indicating a notable mental health disparity (Himle et al., 2009). Increased rates of PTSD have been found in other groups as well, including Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans. and Southeast Asian refugees (Pole et al., 2008). Furthermore, PTSD may be more disabling for minorities; for example, African Americans with PTSD experience significantly more impairment at work and carrying out everyday activities (Himle, et al. 2009).
Typically, when we think of PTSD we think rape and trauma victims or war veterans. But the mental health community, particularly those of us sensitive to cultural/ethnic variables and differences, are recognizing the toll that race-based trauma is having on people of color.
Mental health professionals must be willing and able to assess race-based trauma in their minority clients. Psychologists assessing ethno-racial minorities are encouraged to directly inquire about the client’s experiences of racism when determining trauma history. Some forms of race-based trauma may include racial harassment, discrimination, witnessing ethno violence or discrimination of another person, historical or personal memory of racism, institutional racism, micro aggressions, and the constant threat of racial discrimination (Helms et al., 2012). The more subtle forms of racism mentioned may be commonplace, leading to constant vigilance, or “cultural paranoia,” which may be a protective mechanism against racist incidents. However subtle, the culmination of different forms of racism may result in victimization of an individual parallel to that induced by physical or life-threatening trauma, including workplace induced traumatic experiences.
So, what we do? We all can’t leave the 9-5 to become entrepreneurs. Daily stress is a consequence of how we respond to what happens to us. The key to lessening that impact is to change how we respond to stress. We can respond with toxic choices like drowning our sorrows in alcohol or drugs, excessive spending with gambling and other impulsive acts, or we can safely choose to control and manage our feelings.
8 Ways to Make Your Health& Wellness Your Priority:
- Research on anxiety, depression, and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood (Mayo Clinic). Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. There are a number of nutritional imbalances that can make one prone to depression: essential fats, blood sugar balance, food intolerances, low level Vitamin D, high sugar intake, etc. Health researchers have found a link between inflammation and depression. Inflammation is caused by obesity, high sugar diets, high quantities of trans fats, unhealthy diets in general and STRESS!!!!!
- Spiritually consider prayer and mindfulness as a practice for mental health and wellness. Prayer is a form of meditation that can shift one’s focus onto higher levels of thought, quiet the mind, and increase positive thinking.
- Healthy relationships tend to leave you feeling healthy and energized; toxic relationships tend to leave you feeling depressed and depleted. Be careful who you allow into your inner circle.
- Seek a qualified mental health professional who is culturally sensitive to your situation. That does not mean that the therapist need be of the same ethnicity or race. It does need to be a culturally competent therapist trained in trauma to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of distress secondary to workplace induced trauma/stress. Asking for help is a sign of strength-NOT a weakness!
- Develop a healthy adequate support system. Always have a support system. Stress management is related to self-management. No man is an island and when you’re going through your need your sister friend and brother friends to help get your through difficult days. We all need external resources.
- If you end up in a lengthy legal matter with your job like an EEOC matter, be mindful that this will not end quickly or easily. You need support for a long time. Keep your supports in pace during the journey.
- Journal, journal, journal. I cannot say enough about the benefits
of therapeutic journaling during very difficult moments in our lives. I t nurtures and releases
creativity towards restoration and healing; it will serve as a reminder of
your blessed life and how grateful we truly need to be; and
you are a witness to your own testimony. No one can tell your story like you and thus
journaling will be the leap of faith into your destiny and living a purposeful life.
- Last but not least, if you are struggling with multiples issues and other life factors are complicating your recovery, consider speaking with a psychiatrist for medication as an adjunct to the psychotherapy. Medication for some can be used to just get you over the most difficult period which may be short term, but if assessed as necessary may help you until the crisis has been alleviated.
Dr. Angela Clack Biography
Dr. Angela Roman Clack is a psychologist and licensed psychotherapist at Clack Associates, LLC a private practice outpatient counseling agency in Southern New Jersey. She has been working in the mental health field for more 25 years. Dr. Clack earned her doctorate in 2002 with a degree in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Clack treats adults and youth suffering from depression, anxiety, grief/loss, as well as general emotional distress and relationship/interpersonal problems. She also trains counselors, social workers, and related mental health professionals. Her approach to providing clinical care consists of teaching people to recognize unhealthy patterns in their thinking and behaviors that have resulted in poor emotional and behavioral functioning and choices. She has a particular interest and expertise in treating women and their secondary conditions to trauma, interpersonal/intrapersonal distress, physical health conditions/illnesses, and mood disturbances.
Dr. Clack also offers coaching, supervision, consultation, and program design and development. Through coaching/consultation, speaking engagements and as an author, Dr. Clack’s passion is to provide emotional support, education, information and inspiration to empower women who are experiencing emotional distress, feelings of low self-worth, and feeling “stuck” in their current life circumstances to rewrite their life story by embracing new possibilities and to discover and uncover qualities they never thought they had!
To book Dr. Clack for your next conference or engagement, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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