Healthy ways to cope with PTSD
Having to cope with PTSD is a very challenging experience. It may seem impossible at first, but it is far from impossible. Difficult, yes, but with a few changes in your life, you can definitely manage it. While there are many ways to cope, you will want to adopt some of the healthy ways to cope with PTSD to achieve the best results. You may also want to consider some of the best online therapy services, as they can significantly hasten the entire process. But the first thing you need to do is understand what PTSD is, its symptoms, signs, as well as risk factors. In this article, we will present you with the necessary information to get you started on your road to healing.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a mental state where an individual constantly experiences feelings of sadness, anxiety, disconnection, or fear. It usually happens after a very traumatic experience, such as military combat. But a person can develop PTSD after any experience that makes them fear for their personal safety. Even people who do not personally experience such traumatic events might succumb to PTSD.
Examples include emergency response workers or law enforcement officers who witness a deeply traumatizing scene. It is also possible to get PTSD through empathy with a person who survived a particularly traumatizing event. There are numerous treatments for the condition, with the best online therapy for anxiety being one of the more prominent ones. In fact, the online environment can be particularly effective in dealing with PTSD.
What causes it?
When our minds experience a particularly stressful event, they send a “fight-or-flight” response to our bodies. This means that our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure goes up, and we get enhanced reaction speed and become stronger. All of these effects are short-lived, and our bodies return to normal after the event has passed. But when we are faced with too much stress that breaks the limits of our mind, our bodies do not go to their normal state. And that is basically what causes PTSD to happen.
Even after the danger has passed, the nervous system of a person that has developed PTSD still considers the danger to be there. This has significant adverse effects on the body and mind and makes it very difficult to lead a normal life. Recovering from this disorder can take a very long time, even if you adopt all of the healthy ways to cope with PTSD. But recovery is definitely possible and achievable for just about everyone, with enough work put into it.
Signs, symptoms, risk factors
No two people develop PTSD in the same way. Every individual has their own stress tolerance and a unique nervous system, after all. However, most people will develop the symptoms of PTSD immediately after the triggering event. This can mean hours or a few days. But for others, the first symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder can arrive much later than that. It is not uncommon that a person experiences symptoms of PTSD without any apparent reason, years after the traumatic event took place.
Every individual has unique symptoms, but they are categorized into one of four types:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts/Mood changes
- Avoidance and numbing
Children who experience PTSD may also develop one of the following symptoms:
- Fear of separation
- Sleep problems/Nightmares
- New fears
- Acting out the traumatic event through stories, drawings, or play
Predicting who will get PTSD and who will not is practically impossible. However, there are some risk factors that may contribute to developing it. They include:
- Previous traumatic experiences
- History of abuse (sexual, physical, mental)
- Substance abuse
- History of mental illnesses (depression, anxiety)
Furthermore, the more traumatic an event, the greater likelihood of developing PTSD. Any event that poses a severe threat to your safety or your life has the potential to cause the disorder.
Common PTSD types
There are numerous traumatic events that can cause PTSD to occur. That being said, most of the patients who develop this disorder fall into one of the following categories:
- Military veterans
- Rape victims
- Race abuse
- Victims of an emotional and psychological trauma
Each group experiences PTSD differently. Military veterans usually have a very hard time readjusting to their normal lives and may feel constantly on edge. Or they may even feel disconnected from the world around them, feel emotionally numb, or in a constant state of panic.
Rape victims usually feel extremely scared, alone, and ashamed. Nightmares and flashbacks are very common, as are other unpleasant memories.
Victims of race abuse have their sense of self-worth significantly eroded and they usually experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse, as well as other PTSD symptoms.
Emotional and psychological trauma causes feelings of helplessness and loss of emotional control. Anything that completely shatters one’s sense of safety is considered a trauma. This may include a deeply humiliating experience, injury, sudden death of a loved person, domestic abuse, etc. Most commonly, psychological trauma has deep roots that you can trace back to childhood days but it can happen later in life as well.
The good news is that all of these PTSD types are very treatable. There are many healthy ways to cope with PTSD, such as enrolling in one of the best online CBT therapy programs and getting your life back on its normal track. You can get over the pain and feel safe again, that is the most important part!
8 healthy ways to cope with PTSD
Coping with PTSD is very difficult, there’s no way around that. But it is far from impossible. Medications are usually the “go-to” solution when it comes to short-term coping strategies but they are not healthy for you in the long run. That means that you will want to find other means of coping with PTSD. Here are the best healthy ways to cope with PTSD that you can try:
- Learn more about your issue
- Join a support group
- Avoid using alcohol and drugs
- Confide in someone you trust
- Surround yourself with positive individuals
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques
- Enjoy nature
- Try out new outdoor activities
It is important to note that you don’t need to engage in every single one of the above suggestions. We are all different and what works for others might not work for you. You should, however, give each suggestion an honest try and see if it works for you.
#1: Learning more about PTSD
Sometimes, “Knowing the enemy” is the best way to cope. By getting to know what PTSD is and how it affects you, you may be able to think about PTSD from a more logical standpoint. When PTSD is some kind of “mystery” illness, coping with it is a lot harder. Therefore, spend some time doing research and get to know exactly what happens inside your brain and why you are having the thoughts you are having. In some cases, simply knowing more about your issue is enough to get you on the right track. One of the main advantages of online counseling is that you can get all this information directly from your therapist, from the safety of your own home.
#2: Joining a support group
PTSD can make you feel very alone. It can make you forget that there are other people who are trying to cope with it in their own way. But the fact of the matter is that you are not alone, there are many others who are going through a similar experience. By joining a peer support group for PTSD, you get to connect to those people and learn from their experiences. By doing so, you may feel a lot less isolated and alone and may find interesting coping mechanisms that other people have found. And you might help those people as well.
Two heads are better than one, the proverb goes. And there are more than two heads in a support group. Furthermore, support groups usually involve “leaders”, individuals that are experts in helping other people deal with PTSD. They will drive the conversations and slightly nudge people to open up, even slightly.
All that said, if you are extremely uncomfortable with a support group, you don’t need to force it! Give it a shot, attend a few sessions and see how it goes.
#3: Refrain from using drugs and/or alcohol
While various mind-altering substances may look like an “easy way out”, the fact is that they usually have adverse effects. Substance use can significantly worsen many PTSD symptoms. It can also interfere with treatment and cause other issues (e.g. relationships), as well. You can also become dependent on the substance you are using, which is always a bad thing, potentially even worse than PTSD. Feel free to talk with your therapist about why exactly substance use is so dangerous. You can always recognize a bad therapist if they do not strongly suggest that you need to refrain from using drugs, alcohol, or any other harmful substances.
#4: Speak about your issues with someone you can trust
PTSD usually makes you disconnected from other people. Most individuals with PTSD choose to avoid their loved ones as well as any social activities. And this is the last thing you want to do. What you may want to try is to talk to someone who you know cares about you and confide in them. You need to be able to trust that person and the person needs to provide you with their full attention. This means that you need someone who will listen to you without judging or criticizing you.
Most people turn to their immediate family for support but close friends and professional therapists are also great options. However, since talking to a professional might be expensive, you may also want to look for affordable online counseling options. It is very important that you remain financially stable throughout the process, after all.
#5: Surround yourself with positive people
Having PTSD is a very “negative” experience. You may feel that everything is falling apart and that there is nothing you can do about it. But all you may need is a bit of encouragement and positive thinking. Therefore, you will want to surround yourself with people that have a positive outlook on life, people that will tell you, in all honesty, that everything is going to be alright. You will draw your strength from those people and their positivity will, eventually, “rub off” on you.
#6: Relaxation techniques are one of the best healthy ways to cope with PTSD
But you can also work on yourself without depending on outside help. Relaxation techniques are some of the top healthy ways to cope with PTSD. They include, but are not limited to:
- Deep breathing exercises
All of these exercises serve to activate the body’s “relaxation response”, which will help with PTSD symptoms. And you can do all of them from the safety of your own home. At the start, you may find it very hard to concentrate on any technique but it gets progressively easier. The more time you spend practicing relaxation techniques, the easier it gets.
#7: As is enjoying nature
Being one with nature is not a new concept. While you don’t need to go that far, spending time enjoying nature can be highly therapeutic. The seclusion, relaxation, and peace that come with simply being in nature are things that you don’t want to underestimate. Even if you live in the middle of a large city, finding great spots to enjoy nature is always a possibility. Simply being in a purely natural environment can help you with your PTSD symptoms. But you can also:
#8: Find outdoor activities you will enjoy
Many military veterans have found that camping, hiking, mountain biking, etc. are extremely helpful in keeping their PTSD in check. What you want to do is find an outdoor activity that you enjoy and commit to it. You can do these activities on your own, or you can join one of the local organizations that offer team recreational opportunities. It all depends on whether the activities of your choice involve other people or not.
The main benefit of all these healthy ways to cope with PTSD is the improvement in your overall health. Whether you are engaging in mental or physical activity, it does not matter. What matters is that you are slowly working your way toward improving your situation. However, finding what works for you can sometimes be very difficult. You may want to seek help from a therapist or another mental health professional. These days, online therapy is available to everyone and you can attend the sessions from your own home. If you need to find all the best therapy networks in one place, explore the rest of the Consumer Opinion Guide. We also have numerous helpful articles that can help you cope and lead a better life!