People with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, will often struggle with symptoms such as stress and anxiety. But what is PTSD? PTSD occurs in people who may have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, and its symptoms can affect day-to-day life or productivity.
When you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed, here’s how you can cope, or help someone cope, with PTSD:
- Breathing techniques
- Relaxation techniques
- Social support
- Behavioral activation
Although everyone breathes naturally, practicing breathing techniques can help calm PTSD symptoms. Instead of taking short breaths, which can involve using your chest and shoulders, try breathing longer, deeper breaths with your diaphragm. As you inhale, your belly should expand, and when you exhale, your belly should fall.
Practicing this technique will help you focus more on your breathing rather than the stress and anxiety you are currently feeling.
Mediation has been implemented in various cultures for centuries, but mindfulness techniques have been around for about 2,500 years. In the past ten years, mental health professionals have recognized this technique as a way for people to cope with PTSD.
An easy practice of mindfulness meditation is finding a comfortable spot to sit in for a few minutes, focus on your breath, and follow your breathing for two minutes.
Mindfulness is about being aware of what you are seeing and feeling. Being in touch with the moment you’re in can help relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Tense muscles can be a sign of stress and anxiety. Relaxation techniques can help reduce this stress. Using progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help target those tense muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you tense a muscle group as you breathe in and relax them as you breathe out. Using this in combination with the breathing techniques mentioned earlier, and targeting those muscle groups will help ease stress and increase productivity.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and none of your techniques are working, how do you cope with PTSD triggers? Turning to a friend can help guide you back to a less-stressed state.
Research has found that finding support in a friend can help people overcome the effects of PTSD. Find someone who is trustworthy and who you know you can talk with about what you are feeling. This support system can be by your side to help walk you through your relaxation techniques and help reduce stress.
If you do not have someone readily available to talk, turning to a local support group or counselor may also be beneficial.
Sometimes, you may not be able to get to a friend right when you need them, so it is important to have some self-soothing techniques to help when things get tough. Being able to reach for your favorite cup of tea or read a mantra that helps soothe your mind will help ease your stress.
When some techniques are just not working for you, having activities that help distract your mind can be beneficial. Being able to take your attention off the stress, even just for a moment, will reduce the amount of anxiety you are feeling.
Some of these activities can be within arms reach or readily available to get to in a stressful situation. Finding a puzzle to complete, your favorite show to watch, or even reading a good book can distract your mind from the triggers that caused the stress.
When involved in a high-stress situation, you may want to avoid what is triggering these symptoms. Behavioral activation is based on the theory that, as people become anxious, they tend to engage in avoidance and isolation. Use behavioral activation to increase your engagement in activities that have been shown to improve your mood.
Activities such as riding a bike or working towards specific work-related goals can stimulate the mind and reduce stress.
Overall, having any form of distraction from your PTSD symptoms is better than none. Coping with mental illness is difficult, but we are here to help.
If you are interested in talking to someone about your mental health, learn more about our counseling centers here, or request an appointment below.
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