WHEN STRESS TAKES OVER

After having a particularly stressful day, I got to thinking about PTSD effects our stress levels. I believe that if it’s a stressful day, my baseline increases dramatically due to my PTSD.  My sister will tell you my temper has a hair trigger, and that used to be very true.  I’d like to think it’s not the case so much now, but, it is what it is.  I know that I react to everyday frustrations very quickly, and it’s something I have to keep at the top of my consciousness and work to control every day.

It used to be that I did not realize I was so stressed until I had an emotional melt down. I don’t like myself very much when that happens, so I try to ensure that I’m paying attention enough now to stop it before things get out of hand.  Sometimes that means stepping aside for a voluntary “time out.”  That means I disconnect from whatever is stressing me and focus intently on something enjoyable.  Often I’ll use music to regroup, or maybe I’ll sit down at the computer to play a game or two, or take a ten minute ride in the car.  Basically, it means I’ve had enough stress for the moment and I need to disconnect in order to allow myself a cooling off period.  I really don’t think my family realizes how necessary this is for me, but it is something I feel I have to do for myself to maintain my mental health.

Try monitoring your stress levels throughout the day. If you practice doing this on a daily basis, it will become easier as you go.  Intervening before your stress takes over allows you to stop the cycle of “blowing up” and taking it out on everyone else in the vicinity.  I know I don’t like being known as the person with a temper that explodes on a hair trigger.  Even if others around you don’t understand what you’re doing when you refocus, it’s better for them and you to not let stress push you into the danger zone.

USING TELEMEDICINE IN TREATING PTSD

Telemedicine is the newest trend in treating PTSD. Video teleconferencing (VTC) allows a single person or group of individuals in one location and a clinician in a different location to see and hear each other in real time.

Telemedicine allows veterans living in remote areas to access treatment services they otherwise would have to travel miles to reach. Telemedicine services may include clinical assessment, individual or group psychotherapy, educational interventions, cognitive testing, and general psychiatry. The major benefit is that these services eliminate travel expense that may be disruptive or overly expensive.

Research comparing VTC and real-time methods of PTSD assessment has shown the methods yield comparable results. While providing treatment using telemedicine may need more research, it does provide an alternative for individuals who have difficulty accessing treatment even though they live in remote areas.

Telemedicine appears to offer a more convenient and economical way to provide or supplement PTSD care services. For patients that live remote distances from VA Med Centers, this is one way to make treatment for PTSD accessible.

WHAT’S NORMAL ABOUT PTSD?

The thing about PTSD is that it is a normal reaction to trauma. You can actually think of it as a normal reaction to an abnormal event.  So why do we call it a disorder?  .  Although we may be changed by what we’ve been through, we can and usually do get better over time.  While we may never be the same, for many people the symptoms lessen or disappear altogether.

PTSD treatment works. There are different options you can try to treat PTSD.  The thing is, if you don’t get into treatment, your PTSD may get worse.  It’s never too late to get into treatment; the sooner treatment starts, the sooner you can start to feel better!

There are a variety of treatments available for treating PTSD:

  • Talk Therapy involves discussing what you went through with a therapist.
  • With Prolonged Exposure Therapy, you’ll discuss your experience with a therapist who will ask you to review the situation multiple times. Reliving the experience helps reduce the intensity of the memory.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy helps you change your thoughts about the event which helps change how you feel too.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing involves having you think about the event while listening to a sound such as a beeping tone, or being exposed to a blinking light. For some reason, this helps your brain reprocess your feelings about the event.
  • Stress Inoculation Training teaches you the skills you need to handle stress.
  • Medications may be used to increase certain chemicals in your brain that help you manage stress.

PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormally stressful situation.  It is treatable, and treatment can result in reduction or elimination of symptoms.

COPING WITH ANXIETY

Some tips for helping cope with anxiety:

  • Avoid caffeine – it acts as a stimulant and revs up your nervous system increasing your anxiety.
  • Try relaxation techniques. They may not all work for you, but there are many choices out there and you may just find one that really works. Try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help lower your anxiety.
  • Try visualization – like relaxation techniques, visualization can help lower your stress levels. Picture yourself confronting your fears, and handling stressful situations calmly.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Talk to your doctor. There are many different treatments that may reduce your anxiety.
  • Change your attitude. If you can change the way you think about things, they may not seem so bad.

Controlling your anxiety is possible.  Try a variety of coping techniques.  While one may not work for you, another just might do the trick!