When you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, you suffer from a wide variety of symptoms including anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, avoidance, and emotional numbness. There are too many symptoms to list here, but the funny thing about PTSD is that it’s not like you go through the symptoms one at a time. You’ll likely have multiple things going on at once, or you may experience them all at once. It makes sense then to be prepared for how you’ll respond, and that means having an arsenal of coping mechanisms to fall back on.
As with any other tool that you use, you need to practice your coping skills to become efficient in using them. That means using these skill even when it’s the last thing you want to do. It’s certainly easier to let the pain immobilize you, but that’s not fair to you or those around you.
I once was told that when you don’t want to do something, pretend you do. Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into “getting into the spirit” and going through the motions even when we don’t want to. As you continue to use your coping methods, even if your heart isn’t in it, one day you’ll find you’re no longer pretending. You’re really actively working on healing and moving out of that place of pain. And one day in the future, you’ll find the healing has started.
Some of the ways suggested at the Veteran Health Library by MyHealtheVet to manage your PTSD symptoms are to:
- Learn about PTSD to better understand how and why it affects you.
- Relieve stress to relax and feel less anxious.
- Exercise and be active to reduce how tense you feel. People who are fit usually have less anxiety, depression, and stress than people who aren’t active.
- Get enough sleep to help your mood and make you feel less stressed. Many people with PTSD have trouble sleeping because they feel nervous and anxious or can’t stop thinking about the traumatic event.
- Eat a balanced diet to help your body deal with tension and stress. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet.
- Find things to do to ease your memories and reactions. Consider channeling your emotions into activities or sports, painting or writing, or a rewarding job.
- Identify your beliefs to keep you balanced. PTSD can cause a spiritual crisis. You may begin to question your own beliefs and values and ask yourself why war or disasters happen. If this happens to you, talk to a family member, friend, or spiritual advisor. Consider spiritual study, prayer, or meditation.
Whether you walk, read, go fishing, listen to music, get a massage, join a support group, or whatever, find as many coping mechanisms as you can. Look for those things you enjoy most as they will capture your attention and have the best chance at holding it. Then do it. If you have to, go through the motions even when you don’t want to. Invest yourself in your plan for healing…after all, you’re worth it!