Coping with the Emotional Stress of an Injury

puzzle-unfinished-mess-unresolved-chaosInjuries, no matter how they are caused or even how intense the injury is can be devastating to the person being injured.

Learning how to cope with the emotional stress of an injury is an important milestone to recovery. No one is going to suggest that it is an easy process, or that its a linear one- learning coping strategies will come, they may not be good strategies (drinking helps you cope in the very short term – hinders your recovery in the slightly longer short- medium and long term though) but you will develop strategies. This article will give you a bit of a background as to what emotional stress is a later article will have a few tips for coping with it.

What is emotional stress?

Are you experiencing one or more of these?

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • With Using alcohol or drugs to cope

Then you are experiencing some level of emotional stress. With particular reference to a physical injury there are times where emotional stress is more likely to be triggered. Of course separating these feeling from your injury can sound complicated. If you have experienced psychological violence then fatigue and trouble concentrating are part and parcel of the experience. social withdrawal occurs because of the need to stop the activity you were doing before (your injured- you don’t move around as much). There is a difference and one that only you and those closest to you will notice. Sleeping patterns are a significant indication of anxiety and stress. Most people when they are injured will re-create a sleeping pattern which, though unlikely to be the same as your pre-injury sleeping pattern, will more than likely give your body the rest it needs while coping with pain. It is when this can’t be established or when it changes that you should then talk to your doctor or psychologist about it – its an indication of stress.

It is this type of thinking you should be concentrating on when thinking about whether you are feeling anxious or not. Has my normal patterns changed? Can I recognise those patterns? Are the new patterns stable? Have the new patters changed? These are some of the questions you could be asking yourself throughout your recovery (and adaption) of your injury to check in with yourself.

There are danger periods for anxiety and stress.

At the beginning and during the medical investigation.

This should be an obvious sign post in the road, you go from healthy to injured and until you know what is wrong with you it is hard to do the right thing to help you get better. It can feel like limbo. There is not trick to coping with this period. It is well known so the professionals around you will be alert to it and will no doubt be trying to minimise the anxiety as they can. Knowing that your life is changing (even for a short period of time) is stressful and anxiety provoking.

During normally stressful events.

Life goes on even if you are injured and normal life events have their own stresses. Talk to a groom who’s getting married if they would have preferred doing it without the broken arm and you will understand, injuries complicate already complicated situations.

Dealing with the paper work.

Workplace injuries are accompanied by a lot of paper work (red tape). Paperwork that most people have never encountered before in their lives. Dealing with this is difficult no matter who you are.

Dealing with the “professionals”

Just like the paperwork. Did you ever think you would have to talk to a case manager? or a return to work co-ordinator? probably not, and you are probably regretting not learning about injury management and industrial law at school.

Waiting for things to happen.

Knowing that a decision is being made, but not knowing the outcome is stressful.

Going back to your normal life.

This might sound strange but the longer your recovery, the more stressful it can be to move back to your normal life. The significant reason for this is that the experience you just had has changed you -this is called life. Being less flippant, what occurs is you incorporate the experience of being injured into your life and as such your behaviour and thinking changes – you may not become a St Francis or a Ghandi but you will change. You change, but the life around you doesn’t change in the same proportions. There is a misfit that occurs, it may be very obvious and stark or quite subtle – it does occur though and it does pass. A new “normal” is created and you and your new world continue on.