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Starting back at work and having what I think might be stress reactions

Community Member

Heya - wouldn't mind suggestions about 'stuff I can do'

The situation:

I was bullied at a workplace, low grade bullying, for a very very long time. I didn't leave because I thought I was worthless. But eventually I managed to get a position in another part of the company and eventually left the company in 2019. I was burnt out for over a year. I started work again only a few weeks ago. And I find myself sort of defensive. Or I can't think and my mind goes in circles. Or I get super stressed over little stuff and I know its illogical.

When I do that test that the docs and others always give you, I never score on the anxious questions. And I've only just realised that stress reactions are different from anxiety reactions. So I think I've worked out what is happening to me is a stress reaction to stuff thats WAY in the past.

I have a good counsellor (I am soooo thankful...) but this is all pretty severe. Like, as severe as it gets (you fill in the blanks). So besides all the looking after my physical health and doing fun things, does anyone have any suggestions for other things I can do or things I can read to understand what is happening and how to get over this? I acknowledge that what happened to me happened over a long time so I suspect it might take a while to get over too 😞

Thank you for any thoughts or comments or suggestions.

8 Replies 8

Community Champion
Community Champion

hey there,

i dont have any direct advice but mindfulness has always helped me to come back to the present moment - would you try this?

otherwise, what does your counsellor suggest?

i hope you are okay,

jaz xx

Mark Z.
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Strophe,

I think you need to be patient and give yourself more time.

Focus on your role and your tasks, praise yourself no matter big or small progress you've made.

Establish good relation with your direct supervisor. Be kind to your coworkers. Smile.

There're always 'unfriendly' coworkers, if you feel 'triggered' by some behaviour, if you're not sure whether you overunderstand or will overreact, share this with someone close to you OUTSIDE your company, and ask for a second view (could be your counsellor, or partner, or a close friend).

Keep seeing your counsellor regularly to make sure you're on the right track.

Hope everything will get better and better.


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Strophe,

Welcome to the forums and thank you for joining us! It sounds like you have some great insight into your mental health and reaching out to a therapist so a big kudos to you because that's not easy to do.

This is a great question. I think it might be worth bringing this up to the counsellor too, as they might be able to suggest some different things since they know more about you.

Jaz asked a great question about your counsellor and I can +1 on the mindfulness too. Journalling could also be a great tool if that's something that interests you.

I will share a couple of extra resources, let me know what you think or if it's what you're after. πŸ™‚


Mindspot Wellbeing Course. I know you said that you didn't score highly on anxiety or depression which is what this course is for, but I think there's some really good techniques in here about challenging some thoughts and beliefs. So this might help to interrupt those thoughts that make you defensive for example. It's also free https://www.mindspot.org.au/courses/well-being

Self Compassion by Kristin Neff. It's a great book on being kind to yourself. I know from my own experiences in bullying, it really knocks you around and your self-esteem, so having a little more compassion for yourself can help build your resilience.

Thank you all for your kind responses and good ideas.

On Thursday I decided to try the EAP services (the free 3rd party counselling service at work that a lot of companies have). When they triaged me I said trauma from bullying so the counsellor I got for a free 50 min session was a specialist in that. And oh wow. In 15 min I had given her a rough work history and a rough idea of what I though was happening now, and she had given me a description of poly vagus theory and how I seem to be getting stuck in certain over excited or under-reactive (= overwhelmed) states. And then we spent the next 30 mins talking about how everyone goes through all these states all the time and people with trauma have broken antennas so trigger more easily, and may need to intentionally think about things to do how to get back to the healthy way of thinking. A lot of it I had kind of picked up just listening to people (see those social postcards can actually be useful!) but it was great to have an explanation why.

She also sent me some resources "Trauma and the Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective" and then "5 Tips to Regulate Your Nervous System in Intensity". I mean its only a *theory*. And theories can change over the years. But I'm going to try giving it a go.

Hi Strophe,

I must have misread your initial post sorry as I thought you mentioned you had a counsellor? But either way, that sounds fantastic - I'm so glad that she was helpful.

I'm definitely aware of polyvagal theory. I too found it helpful to have an understanding of what's going on under the surface. There's a post I made not long ago about finding glimmers which is based on the theory too.

Best of luck with your counsellor,


Community Member

Hi Strophe. πŸ‘‹

I’m sorry you’ve been bullied and that you’re suffering terribly with stress.

I’m new to the forum too. β€˜Stuff’ I do that might help you:

Listening to binaural beats music

Colouring mandalas to relaxing music

Snuggling under one of those super soft blankets

Weighted blanket

Sipping at hot drinks

Eating soup

Watching funny YouTube clips

Watching and listening to clips with baby laughter. So infectious!

Binge watching Netflix

Lots of walking

Reading (when I can concentrate)

I hope you are able to enjoy some periods in each day when you feel better. And that the contented times in your day get longer.

Thank you... I did a kind of confusing post.

I have like a normal counsellor - who I am very grateful for. But I was between appointments and my reactions were very severe (hence why I am on here). So I kind of wanted near immediate help. So I reached out to EAP (and here) to get quicker counselling help just on this specific item of trauma reactions from bullying.

Sorry for being confusing. I wasn't thinking very well when I wrote it. Thank you for your 2x kind responses.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Strophe

I feel for you so much with all you've been through in the past. You gotta wonder about people and why they don't feel the need to be more conscious and sensitive. It takes a pretty confrontational person to lead a bully to question themself and their behaviour and even then they still may be too arrogant to do so.

Will throw this out there in the hope that it may help: While I used to wonder what was 'wrong' with me, as to why I was so sensitive, took a number of years and some good solid constructive guidance to reach the conclusion/revelation - The more sensitive I become the more easily I can sense/feel

  • While it's not always easy to sense who's depressing (in a degrading abusive way) or who's stress inducing, the volume of people who lead you to feel what's depressing or stressful and/or the frequency with which you experience these feelings can lead you to better 'tune in' to what's depressing and stressful. Before you know it you're so well tuned in, to the point where you're picking these things up just about everywhere, even in their smallest forms. There can be depressing stressful triggers happening left, right and centre. You can easily sense a thoughtless comment, no matter how small and you can sense the very beginnings of what can potentially become a major stressor
  • If you're super sensitive, you won't just feel your own stress, you'll sense or feel the stress of others too. So, you could be feeling pretty good before you walk into work and then all of a sudden you might feel this overwhelming sense of stress (from others). My niece is like this. She has to manage emotionally detaching, 'tuning out' from others
  • With the ability to feel our triggers, memories, internal dialogue, imagination, nervous system and more, we can spend the whole day feeling. Can become exhausting. Developing ways to experience peace (tuning out) is a must

I think our past experiences can condition us to become hyper vigilant to what's stressful and depressing. A constant state of hyper vigilance or super awareness can become undeniably exhausting. Do you feel it would make some difference if you developed a conscious mantra of some kind, such as something along the lines of 'What am I feeling right now and why am I feeling it?'? Something that could take you from being a 'feeler' to an 'analyst' (the other extreme) or somewhere in between might be something that may perhaps make some difference.

Have you developed ways to recognise and feel peace?