PTSD

Healthy Ways to Deal With PTSD

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose.” – Michelle Rosenthal

A soldier with his head in his hands, speaking to another about PTSD

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental illness that is not to be taken lightly. This mental illness – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder – occurs after response to a trauma. This trauma can be either physical or emotional and is an event that occurs that leaves one scarred and traumatized from said event. 

Thankfully, there are healthy things that one can do if they feel as though they are suffering from PTSD. Before getting into the healthy ways to deal with PTSD, it is important to realize that after a trauma it is normal, and even expected, to have symptoms of PTSD. 

The distinguishing factor from a typical response to trauma and PTSD is the duration of the symptoms. When the symptoms of PTSD do not get better over time, and possibly get worse, then one should be concerned with getting help for PTSD.

Awareness of PTSD

The first step in dealing with PTSD is having the awareness that one has the symptoms of PTSD. For this reason, it can be beneficial to know and understand what the symptoms of PTSD are. 

A common symptom associated with PTSD is persistent anxiety, nervousness, and fear. It is common to experience ongoing anxiety, especially associated with thoughts of the previous trauma. Relatedly, in those dealing with PTSD, they will have flashbacks or nightmares that occur frequently, or regularly. Sometimes these flashbacks are brought on by something that reminds one of the trauma – a trigger –such as a certain color, or song, or smell, for example. 

In addition to feeling anxious, an individual with PTSD may feel depressed as well. This depression may accompany anxiety, or it may occur alone. It is common for those with PTSD to experience feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. 

Those with PTSD often experience an ongoing hyperarousal that may lead to a lack of sleep, outbursts of anger/being short tempered, and feeling jumpy or “on high alert” all the time. 

It is important to realize that these are just some of the most common symptoms of PTSD and it is possible to experience other symptoms as well. If you think you might have PTSD it is best to reach out to your doctor to be sure, which leads to the best way to deal with PTSD.

Talking About PTSD

If you think you or a loved one has PTSD the best thing to do is to talk about it. Many times, people with PTSD (and mental illness in general) will close off and isolate. There are many reasons that people with PTSD may not disclose what they are dealing with to others. 

The important thing is that they are able to overcome these reasons and seek help. If an individual with PTSD does not feel comfortable talking about their experiences with their family or friends, they can talk with their doctor or a psychologist. Regardless of who, it is important that an individual who is experiencing PTSD opens up to someone they can trust and will receive their message and respond without judgment. 

In addition to confiding one’s experiences, struggles, and pains with a family member or friend, it is recommended that professional help is sought to help any individuals suffering with PTSD to get through it and overcome it in the healthiest and safest way possible. A therapist trained in working with those who have PTSD will have the empirical research and interventions that are evidence-based for those with PTSD. 

Exercise and Sleep

Apart from opening up and confiding in a trusted individual (or individuals), another healthy way to deal with PTSD is to move one’s body. Exercising, even if it is light exercise, is good for the body and the mind. When one exercises, endorphins – or feel good hormones – are released which can relieve stress and make one feel better. 

Similarly, when one sleeps the body’s hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals in the body are restored. It is important to find a balance of working and resting. While it is important to exercise and move one’s body, it is also appropriate to give it time to recover. Sleeping is a major part of the body’s recovery. 

People outside in nature doing yoga, dealing with PTSD in a healthy way

Go Outside and Be in Nature

It can be beneficial for one’s mood to go outside and get fresh air. Being in nature can be helpful to those experiencing PTSD, depression, and anxiety. There is a peace in nature that can be experienced that directly opposes the fast-paced, hustle and bustle society that exists in cities or metropolitan areas. 

As those with PTSD often have an exaggerated startle response and may be jumpy, being in a fast-paced environment may not be the best choice. Instead, being out in nature and experiencing the peace that nature provides can be impactful in dealing with PTSD.

Additional Healthy Ways to Deal with PTSD

It could be helpful to engage in activities that one enjoys and finds either intellectually stimulating or relaxing. Ideally, one would have multiple activities that they can utilize for relaxation or intellectual stimulation depending on the need at the time. 

For example, when one is tense it would be beneficial to have a relaxing activity, such as yoga, meditation, or coloring. On the other hand, if one is bored, a stimulating activity would be best to keep the individual engaged and distracted from potential negative thoughts or feelings.

Speak Up!

Altogether, it is most important that someone with PTSD seeks help for what they are experiencing and dealing with. It would be ideal for an individual with symptoms of PTSD to seek professional help and talk with a counselor about what they are experiencing. However, talking with a trusted friend or loved one also could be very helpful for someone struggling with PTSD. 

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