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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Self Help Meaning


Provider Toolkit


Meaning-Based Strategies

Meaning-based strategies can reduce work-related stress and burnout, and support you in recovering from secondary traumatic stress (STS). Focusing on the aspect of work most meaningful to you (e.g., patient care, research, education) can reduce burnout.2,27,86,87 Experiencing value in one's work and positive meaning making have been shown to increase the likelihood of vicarious posttraumatic growth.40

Values Clarification

Recognizing and reconnecting to values is highly endorsed by psychologists as a way to keep an objective perspective and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the personal demands of psychological work.54 It may also help guide providers to identify concrete choices that create a more fulfilling work experience, leading to reductions in burnout.27,32,88 Periodically assessing whether you are living congruently with your values will allow you to recognize internal and external barriers to doing so. This involves clarifying your values and making behavioral commitments to these values.89-91 For instance, you can reflect on your most important values and compare how consistent your life is with your values. Next identify barriers that stand between you and your values, and identify concrete steps you can take to overcome these barriers. Some providers have additionally recommended engaging in a spiritual practice to facilitate connecting with values, meaning, compassion, and a sense of something larger than themselves.38,92

Values clarification is important because:

  1. Working in an environment that is consonant with your values can increase intrinsic motivation. Intrinsically motivated employees are more likely to put effort into their tasks, are positive about the outcome, and are more effective and persistent in performing their tasks. They do not lose resources over time due to feelings of being burned out, but rather improve their resources at work, such as seeking support from co-workers and supervisors and participating in decision-making.93
  2. It has been shown that attaining balance requires not only resources and options, but also a whole-life perspective that carefully considers the impact of career decisions on life outside of work.94 When personally meaningful values and goals provide the motivation behind career decisions, greater work-life balance is achieved. This approach is associated with regularly assessing oneself and one's work environment, and taking self-directed action to acquire the resources that allow you to fulfill goals in multiple areas (e.g., work, family, and community). Regular self-reflection and support from like-minded mentors and managers can cultivate this approach.95

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health