Sometimes, with PTSD, we tend to lose ourselves and disconnect from the reality around us. It can be difficult to stop when we find ourselves tumbling down the rabbit hole, but it can be done. One way is to focus in on actual sensations of touch, sound and sights. The PTSD on-line Coach offers suggestions for how to ground yourself and prevent disconnecting from reality. Some of the simple grounding activities you can try are:
- Place your feet flat on the floor. Focus all of your attention on your feet and feel the floor underneath them.
- Walking. Walk slowly while focusing on what it feels like to take each step.
- Examine an object. Pick up any small object and focus on it. Pay attention to the texture and feel of it.
- Pet an animal. Use a cat or dog that is quiet and calm. Focus on the sensation of touch, the feel of the fur, the peacefulness of the animal.
- Feel the earth. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Close your eyes and imagine you’re putting roots down into the earth, making you strong and stable.
- Ice cube. Hold an ice cube. Focus all your attention on the sensations- cold, wet, tingling.
- Name what you see. Look around you and name the things you see. Start with large objects and then move on to smaller and smaller ones.
- Focus on touch. Rub your hands together and clap them. Focus on the feeling, sound and experience.
- Reorienting. Remind yourself where you are, what the date is, when you were born and what you did yesterday.
- Call a friend. Discuss some activity you did together recently.
- Past success. Remember what you did to successfully get past a previous painful experience.
- Stamping your feet. Feel the force, hear the sounds.
As you can see, these are simple exercises that you can do most anywhere at any time. In all of them, you are focusing on something other than unwanted memories. They are easy to do and can be used successfully to keep yourself grounded and in the moment.
I’ve found, over the years, that it is beneficial for me to monitor what I’m watching on television or at the movies and limit programs that are billed as having a lot of violence in them. I know the more violent the story, the more likely it is to negatively affect me and trigger my PTSD. It’s just easier to stop and say, “It’s not worth it!”
Although many people enjoy action-packed dramas, knowing it’s a trigger means that it’s my responsibility to limit what I watch. I’ve learned that seeing the movie often isn’t worth the trauma that comes after. I tend to think of this as the “garbage in/garbage out” effect. If I pour violent visual input into my brain, the output is going to be negative too. It’s just not worth going through.
I think it’s easy in today’s society to just kind of let things happen, and use the television to anesthetize ourselves. We tend to get lazy in ensuring that what we’re taking in is worthwhile, or at least not toxic. Television is a great escape, but it comes with a price: if you don’t monitor what you’re watching, you may well find your subjecting yourself to unnecessary content that simply inflames your PTSD.
Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of senseless violence. Turn off the TV and find something more worthwhile to take in. Garbage in/garbage out is controllable!
While it’s normal for all of us to feel anxious at times, when that anxiety becomes excessive, it can have a tremendous impact on our lives. Generalized Anxiety Disorder feel anxious for months at a time and display other symptoms of he disorder. Other symptoms include:
- Restlessness or excessive alertness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disorders
Panic attacks may be one way the disorder manifests itself. These are sudden periods of intense fear. Physical symptoms may include pounding heart, sweating, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom.
If the anxiety is connected to social contacts, then social anxiety disorder is the cause. Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling anxious around other people and difficulty talking to them
- Feeling self-conscious in front of others
- Fear of being humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
- Fear of being judged
- Avoiding other people
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Recently, I was listening to National Public Radio and they did a segment on one the programs where the VA is reducing benefits. Many Veterans who were enrolled in the Family Caregiver Aid Program are being bounced out without any explanation for why their benefits have been cut. Even stranger, on a national level the program is growing. The VA responded by saying some of the Veterans who were cut didn’t deserve the benefit in the first place. Yet many of these Vets were wounded while in the service, are totally unable to work, and the strain being placed on the family members caring for them is terrible.
The VA has long had a reputation for inconsistency in providing services, and unfortunately, this appears to be another example of the same. While the VA says they want to do more for Veterans and get Veterans enrolled to receive the benefits they deserve, too often the men and women who apply, for one reason or another, don’t qualify, or the services they’ve received in the past have been cut without explanation.
Many Veterans have trust issues when it comes to the VA and that’s sad. The very organization that is supposed to be their greatest support has left them feeling betrayed and abandoned. There are still changes that need to happen in the VA before Veterans are going to feel they are receiving the support they deserve; trust won’t grow until those changes are made.