Therapy, recovery and activity when having PTSD: best techniques
Post-traumatic stress disorder is quite possible to treat, but it is not always simple or easy. For many people, even asking for help or admitting that they are experiencing difficulties can be the biggest obstacle.
The way in treating PTSD can be a tortuous one, sometimes with symptoms easing, sometimes with them getting back to the starting point.
There may be reasons why treatment is not working for you as quickly as you would like, and sometimes you may (unconsciously) put up barriers to your recovery.
It is important to talk to your therapist or general practitioner about your concerns. However, the most important thing is to trust the process.
How to support yourself if you have PTSD
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, you can start your recovery process with simple everyday steps:
- Maintain a daily routine. Organizing your life as normally as possible can give you a sense of grounding.
- Talk to someone you trust. Talking to someone who has experienced a similar situation can also help.
- Try relaxation exercises. It could be meditation or other relaxation exercises. If it is too difficult for you, you should consult a therapist about exercises that may work for you.
- Go back to work or school. It can give you a sense of routine and it will keep you busy. However, you should try to avoid situations that may subject you to further trauma or severe stress.
- Eat regularly and exercise. Even if you don't feel like eating, try to eat on a schedule and sports will help you feeling more tired when it's time to go to bed.
- Spend time with others. It will give you a feeling of support.
- Expect improvement. Focusing on the thought that you will eventually feel better will be good for your recovery.
- Go back to where the traumatic event occurred only when you feel you can do it. Talk to your therapist or doctor if you plan to do it, in order they can support you in that step.
There are also some things you should be careful with during your recovery. Doing the “right thing” can be very difficult and you should not feel guilty if you find yourself doing any of these things:
- Self-criticism. PTSD symptoms are not a sign of weakness. They are a normal reaction to a terrifying experience.
- Keep your feelings inside. If you have PTSD, don`t feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings with others. Communicating about your feelings can support your recovery.
- Expect things to go back to normal immediately. Treatment of PTSD can take time. Try not to expect too much too quickly.
- Stay a little further away from other people. Spending a lot of time alone can increase feelings of isolation and make you feel worse.
- Alcohol and smoking. Although alcohol can help you relax, it can eventually make you feel worse. Coffee and nicotine can act as nervous system stimulants, which can also make you feel worse.
- Overwork. PTSD can make sleep difficult, but try to maintain your usual sleep mode as much as possible to prevent it from making you feel worse.
- Driving. Be careful when driving. Accidents happen more often to people who have experienced a traumatic event.
Psychotherapy when having PTSD: therapy and recommended activities
In general, 2 main psychotherapeutic approaches are recommended for treating PTSD: eye movement desensitization and processing (EMDR) method and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
However, there are many other treatments and activities that can be used to alleviate PTSD symptoms or in conjunction with them. Some of these have short-term and some have long-term effects. When they are offered as part of a well-developed therapy program and methods of coping with PTSD, they can provide the welcome relief.
Although, it should not be assumed that any of the ways of alleviating PTSD symptoms is a “quick solution”. It is important to have realistic expectations and find what works for you. Remember that these are medical recommendations, but practices that have helped others may help you too.
Definitely consult a specialist to find the most appropriate techniques for you.
Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce physiological excitement in people who have PTSD, helping to minimize the risk of intrusive memories and other physical PTSD symptoms.
This is simply a series of steps aimed at increasing awareness, focus and calmness, which makes it a valuable psychotherapeutic technique. It can enable people to better control their mind and emotions caused by PTSD.
This psychosensory therapy is used to eliminate deep-seated anxiety and strong, instinctive negative reactions. It places your emotional reactions in a safe space, a refuge. It can allow you to break the cycle of negative emotional reactions associated with PTSD.
Music therapy can stimulate the production of positive hormones such as oxytocin, counteract the hormones associated with increased stress, and provide sensory changes that can cause us to instinctively release muscle tension. These are all important for people who have PTSD.
Martial arts allow us to understand and develop a good relationship with power, help us to express emotions, to practice self-care, to set and maintain boundaries, and help us to relax.
Equestrian therapy (hippotherapy)
Therapeutic horse riding can lead to a significant statistical reduction in PTSD symptoms such as insomnia, memories or panic attacks after three weeks.
Many studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating PTSD. It can affect brain areas which are known to reduce sensitivity to stress and promote relaxation, as well as dealing with other problems such as painful joints, muscle pain, lack of energy and disturbed sleep.
It is believed that the reduction of PTSD symptoms as a result of jogging is associated with an increase of brain protein level called "brain neurotrophic factor". This protein is usually reduced in people who have PTSD and plays a definite role in eliminating fear by helping the brain to establish context and consequently a sense of security.
Artistic creation can change the neural pathways of the brain, which can help to change the way we think and feel.
Water has been known for many years to have healing properties: in addition to its ability to cleanse and heal physical wounds, it can also have a huge positive impact on mental health.
Writing and diary keeping
Diary keeping is a safe place for random thoughts, feelings and experiences that would otherwise clutter your mind. Writing words down on paper becomes a way of cleansing and can lessen the emotional reactions associated with PTSD.
Gardening can be incredibly beneficial for people who have PTSD. It combines physical activity, social interaction and the impact of nature and sunlight. Sunlight lowers blood pressure, increases vitamin D level in summer, and grown fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on the diet.
Hypnosis (essentially a deeply relaxed state) can be used to restore and develop new, positive pathways in the brain that promote long-lasting and healthy mental behavior.