Working with PTSD: How to Push Through When You Have to

It would be so much more convenient if the world could pause long enough for us to stop, get what we need, recover, heal and get geared up to try again.

If you figure out how to do that, please let me know.

It doesn’t, and if you own a business, sometimes it can all come in the door at once: client requests, deadlines, bills due, repairs needed, inventory delays and probably some personal issues (or explosions) on top of it. Does this happen to everyone? Sure. Is it so much harder with PTSD? Absolutely. “Everyone gets overwhelmed sometimes” is one of the least helpful and supportive phrases I have ever heard, and I don’t care if it happens to everyone because I know how it happens to me. Overwhelmed for me might be more like obliterated for others.

But the work doesn’t stop, because it was stopped for too long, and pushing through is so hard because I pushed through until I couldn’t anymore. So what do I do?

There are a few features of my life at the moment that are pretty similar. Physical, emotional and mental endurance are not my strengths right now, and that plays out in very similar ways. I used to be able to muscle through a obstacle run or a double workout, but I now struggle on hikes with uphill sections. When I hit the uphill parts, I have to slow down and watch my footing, then I start to lose energy and I have to be intentional and aware of my steps. I go from ignoring my feet to paying careful attention to them, and start placing my feet rather than walking. It’s a subtle difference, but one that shifts my energy into something that works better for me and is focused more efficiently, more effectively. The noise around me drops out a bit (and I become less tolerant of it) and I zero in on placing my feet, taking those steps, no matter how small or how slow they are.

I do the same with work. I still have to know the big picture and where I’m headed, but I shift my focus from the big (overwhelming and too much to deal with without shutting down) to the steps, walking carefully and as slowly as I need to so that I can keep progressing without freaking out because I had to stop or freaking out because I tried to tackle too much at a time.

When I have to slow down, I often have to work over the weekend, and that’s another thing I have to carefully step through.

What do I need to get done, what can wait until next week and how do I protect my schedule and my well being while I don’t drop the ball and put myself further behind? If I’ve had a week or few days in which I haven’t been well, being intentional and slow with my steps, even if it means working a little longer or more days than I normally would want to, usually turns out to be my best move. Keeping up the forward progress – while I make sure I take care of myself and rest when I need to – will usually get me out of the overwhelming stretch and back to a place that things seem more doable without putting me behind as might happen if I were checked out and stopped.

Not every difficult stretch will work out this way, and sometimes you might need to take that full step back, or even call a helicopter to come pick you up off the trail. However, if you are ready to start moving forward consistently and are experiencing some challenges with managing feeling overwhelmed with work and having those time pressures, try shifting your view and your focus down to your feet, and trust that you will know how to step.

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