Coping Mechanisms

There are a number of positive, proven steps that you can take to gain control of your PTSD symptoms today.

Recognize that PTSD is not your fault. Different people respond to stressors in different ways. Your reaction is not “wrong.”It is a troubling but natural reaction to trauma that may affect as many of 20% of those exposed to combat or other severe traumas.

Don’t dwell on your experience or permit obsessive thoughts about it. Recognize the feelings for what they are, and don’t hide them from others or try to deny them yourself. Burying such feelings only slows the healing process.

Find someone to talk to: a trusted friend; a clergyman; your family doctor or a mental health professional. Discussing the feelings you are having with a trusted third party is a very effective way to diminish their power over you.

Find ways to express yourself creatively: keep a journal, write poetry, learn to sculpt, buy a water color set, join the church choir, start a garage band or learn to play a musical instrument. Find some creative avenue that allows the outward expression of the good and the bad things you are feeling.

Take good care of yourself physically. Walk or exercise for at least an hour several days a week. Concentrate on eating a healthy diet of foods you enjoy, especially onescontaining fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid drugs and alcohol, which will only compound the problems you are experiencing, and which often lead to feelings of low self-esteem.

Try simple breathing exercises. These natural tranquilizers to our body‘s nervous system have been used around the globe for thousands of years as a core part of the practice of meditation. One popular exercise is a 3:5:7 technique. Sit in a relaxed position in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Draw a deep breath, noticing how your belly expands and your shoulders rise, and exhale slowly letting your diaphragm rise until your lungs are emptied of air. Pay attention to your body. Listen to the sound of your breathing and notice the pulse of blood in your ear. Begin counting, counting to three for each inhale, hold your breath for a five count, then exhale slowly and completely for a count of seven. Repeat. Expel outside thoughts and concentrate on breathing and counting. In a quiet room, or a room with relaxing music playing you will quickly become aware of the rhythm of your heartbeat. Count one for each pulse. As you become comfortable with the exercise, try to slow the count down, concentrating on your pulse, and on your counting. This exercise can have beneficial effects with as few as 4 or 8 repetitions, and when repeated for 10 or 20 minutes will result in a feeling of deep relaxation.

Establish and adhere to normal routines. Sufferers of PTSD often withdraw into themselves. Much better is to try to return to familiar routines, especially those you enjoyed, like hobbies, engaging with friends or family activities. Veterans returning from combat may need to establish new routines, as changes in the family have to be considered, but having established routines, and adhering to them, can reduce stress.

Turn towards your community. In many regards, healing can be considered a return to the community. Engaging with family and friends, an organization centered around shared interests, a church or community group, can be very effective reducers of stress.

Practice mindfulness in simple daily activities. Make a very intentional effort to heighten your awareness during simple every day activities. While eating, pay attention to the different textures, aromas and flavors of the food you eat. Go for a walk and instead of daydreaming pay attention to what is going on in your environment. Listen to the sounds, notice temperature changes, note the sights around you and the changing variety of colors nature offers. Take activities that you normally do unconsciously and do them mindfully instead, with a very careful attitude of attention. One practitioner of mindfulness practices it while driving, and imagines he is a chauffeur, concentrating on smooth starts and stops, rigid adherence to traffic laws, and avoiding sudden turns. Such activity is not only a distractor that will help dismiss feelings of stress—it might even make you a better driver.

Volunteer. Get outside yourself and serve the needs of others. Hospitals, churches, homes for the elderly, fraternal organizations of all kinds are always looking for people who have time or talent they can share with others in need. Get proactive. Action has always been the antidote to anxiety. Take three or four of the suggestions on this page and put them to work in a disciplined way starting right this minute. Take control of your stress instead of letting it take control of you.

Get proactive. Action has always been the antidote to anxiety. Take three or four of the suggestions on this page and put them to work in a disciplined way starting right this minute. Take control of your stress instead of letting it take control of you.