How To Live With PTSD
Updated: Jan 31
If you’ve been diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, or have recently experienced a traumatic event, it can be easy to feel alone or hopeless. You may find it hard to function in your day-to-day activities as your symptoms may come on without warning or cause.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that is your body’s response to a traumatic event resulting in intrusive symptoms, avoidance behaviors, arousal symptoms, and negative changes in cognition and mood, that persist for more than one month after the traumatic event. Specifically, these symptoms present as nightmares, intense anxiety, intrusive negative thoughts, easily startled, feelings of guilt or shame around the event, dissociative symptoms, and more.
Fortunately, if you struggle with PTSD you can still live a normal life! Below are a list of options if you're struggling with PTSD.
Psychotherapy: Commonly referred to as talk therapy includes both individual and group
therapy. Psychotherapy will give you a safe space to process the event with a trained trauma professional, alter your cognitive beliefs about the event, identify your triggers, and develop a repertoire of coping skills to learn to manage and reduce the intensity of your PTSD symptoms.
Different types of therapy that have been proven to be beneficial for PTSD include Cognitive- Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Exposure therapy. Group therapy has also been proven to be helpful as it offers them the opportunity to feel heard and understood by others who have also experienced a traumatic event.
Medication: If your PTSD symptoms are overwhelming it may be helpful to speak with a
medical professional for medication that can help alleviate the intensity of your symptoms and make it easier to function every day. The most effective treatment for most mental health conditions is believed to be a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Living with PTSD
Outside of psychotherapy and medication, there are plenty of coping skills you can engage in to help improve your symptoms and day-to-day life.
Lean On Your Support Systems: Research has continued to show that getting support from loved ones has been helpful in overcoming a mental health condition. We don’t necessarily need advice or guidance, sometimes we just need someone to listen to us, someone to cry to, or someone to distract us from the emotional pain that we’re feeling. Having a safe space to express yourself and your needs can be beneficial while working through the stressors of a traumatic event.
Mindfulness: The goal of mindfulness is to be present in each moment. It is not to be living in the past or future, but living in the present. Mindfulness is about focusing on one task at a time, being aware of how you feel, and your environment. You can practice mindfulness while engaging in day-to-day automatic behaviors such as driving, walking, cooking, cleaning, etc.
Meditation: Meditation includes mindfulness activities, guided imagery, deep breathing,
progressive muscle relaxation, and more. It is beneficial in reducing negative emotions and stress. Meditation scripts and videos can be found for free on the internet. Setting time each day to engage in meditation can help you manage the negative emotions and thoughts associated with the stressors of PTSD.
Exercise: Exercise has been proven to have many benefits on your mental health by reducing tension and stress in the mind and body; as well as is proven to be helpful in reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms. Exercise does not need to be intense, it can be simply going for walks, doing yoga, stretching, and more.
Get A Therapy Dog: Therapy dogs have been proven to help people struggling with mental health conditions. Particularly PTSD, as the symptoms of stress and anxiety will be reduced.
Journaling: Journaling is a healthy and effective way to express your feelings and emotions and is linked to improved mental health. In regard to PTSD, it can be a safe place to release negative emotions about the traumatic event.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: Drugs and alcohol alter your brain chemistry and hormones,
making it harder to cope with PTSD and worsen your symptoms.
Distraction Skills: Our brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Utilizing distraction skills allows our brain to focus on something other than our negative emotions, giving those emotions time to reduce in intensity, making them easier to manage and less overwhelming.
Self-soothe: Self-soothe is a coping skill that is about engaging in activities that calm your five senses. By targeting your five senses you can reduce the severity of your negative emotions and cope with the emotions in a healthy way.
Show Yourself Compassion: You just experienced a traumatic event and trauma has been proven to change an individual’s brain chemistry. Meaning, your brain is structured differently after the traumatic event then it was before the traumatic event. It is important to treat yourself the same way you’d treat a loved one going through a traumatic event. Most importantly remember, emotions are fleeting and all the emotions you feel will pass eventually, both bad and good. Be patient with and kind to yourself as you learn to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.
If you're looking for support, don't hesitate to reach out to NG Mental Health Counseling, PLLC! We have licensed professionals specializing in trauma therapy, specifically EMDR and DBT.