How to Effectively Cope with PTSD
Traumatic events have the ability to leave lasting impressions that may or may not fade with time. For someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, a traumatic event actually becomes part of the everyday experience. A University of Pennsylvania resource site attributes PTSD to events involving both sexual and nonsexual assault, accidents, combat and natural disasters among others.
Post-traumatic stress can bring on feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness and anger at any given time. These symptoms often result in a person using unhealthy coping strategies as a way to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Fortunately, people affected by this condition can employ different techniques to cope with PTSD and its symptoms.
Negative self-thoughts lie at the root of feelings involving guilt and shame from a traumatic event. Mindfulness uses different techniques designed to help reshape the way a person sees him or herself in different situations. Mindfulness techniques can be used throughout the day to cope with PTSD. Some of these techniques include:
- Awareness – focusing attention on the here and now by attending to things in the immediate environment (sounds, smells, sights). This also includes maintaining awareness of passing thoughts and feelings.
- Beginner’s Mind – viewing people, places and events as if you’re seeing them for the first time. This technique enables a person to cope with PTSD by replacing preconceived ideas and beliefs with new possibilities.
- Nonjudgmental observing – viewing passing thoughts and feeling from a nonjudgmental perspective. This technique enhances a person’s sense of self-compassion.
For someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic events have stripped away a sense of self validation, leaving them feeling small and insignificant. Self validation routines can help a person cope with PTSD. Personal emotions and past accomplishments are two areas where self validation can be used to help build-up feelings of self worth.
When uncomfortable emotions come to the surface, ignoring them, suppressing or seeing them as a sign of weakness only works to increase a person’s overall emotional distress. Viewing personal emotions from a nonjudgmental standpoint enables you to better cope with PTSD symptoms.
Past accomplishments represent a person’s inner strength and perseverance in the face of challenges. By recognizing past accomplishments, whether big or small, PTSD sufferers can increase their sense of self worth and competency. As a person’s sense of self worth increases it becomes easier to cope with PTSD and the negative emotions it triggers.
Behavioral activation offers another effective way to cope with PTSD. While thoughts do influence emotional states, behavior can also influence a person’s emotions. Behavioral activation encourages PTSD sufferers to gradually engage in fun, rewarding activities on a more frequent basis. In the process, these activities help to improve a person’s overall emotional state and sense of well-being.
This practice entails setting specific weekly goals to participate in things a person enjoys doing. These goals should work towards improving certain aspects of a person’s life. For example, someone who wants to work on compassion issues would set goals that involve taking care of self or others, such as joining a dance class or doing volunteer work.
Ultimately, the more a person can exercise compassion towards self and others, the better he or she will be able to cope with PTSD.
University of Pennsylvania – Causes of PTSD