COPING WITH LONG-TERM STRESS

When we experience long-term stress, our brain functioning is affected. This is due to the chemical changes our body goes through when we are in a continually aroused state. When we are in “flight or fight” mode for an extended period of time, the body continues to secrete chemicals to keep us ready to either rumble or run. Unfortunately, we weren’t meant to remain in this constant state of arousal.

With PTSD, we are in this chemically imbalanced state to start with. Adding more stress is like pouring gasoline on a fire. We just keep escalating until we are so burdened, we can barely function. Is it any wonder then that what we want most to do is just hide out until the danger blows over?

Taking care of ourselves is the first step in coping with excessive stress. We need to focus on eating well, sleeping soundly, and not adding to our problem by ignoring our own basic needs. It’s a time to put into practice all those ways we’ve learned to cope: meditation, deep breathing exercises, prayer, music, art, etc. Whatever it is that works for you, now is the time to use it.

Taking care of yourself is only one step though. If things are really bad, you may want to consider getting some counseling, not because you can’t cope on your own, but to help you relieve some of the stress so you can cope longer and better.

Talking the situation over with someone you trust can be very helpful! Sometimes just putting things into words helps you get a handle on the emotions that are involved. Getting a second opinion about what’s happening can reassure you that this isn’t your imagination running away with you.

Stress can cause even the healthiest person to become exhausted. For those of us with PTSD, added stress can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Watch out for long-term stress, and have some ways of defusing it in your tool box. Be kind to yourself!

MANAGING YOUR MEDICATIONS

There has been a lot of attention given to opioid use in the tabloids lately as they are so often abused. Like most other pain medications, opioids can be dangerous if misused.

Opioids are often found in prescription medications and in illegal drugs such as heroin. If taken incorrectly, the can negatively impact your respiratory system. Taking too high a dose of an opioid can cause you to stop breathing.

Opioid use can also be addicting, or you may develop a tolerance if you use them on a daily basis. Tolerance causes you to require larger and larger doses to achieve the same amount of pain control. You should always check with your doctor before increasing or decreasing your dosage. Do not take someone else’s medications, including opioids, and don’t share your drugs with others. Someone else who takes your meds might not be tolerant.

With opioids, as with all other medications you are taking, know what it is you are taking. If the medication looks different from what you’ve been taking and there is no notice to that effect on the medication bottle, ask your pharmacist before proceeding. Take your medication exactly as prescribed and directed. Do not mix medications with alcohol or other drugs.

Opioids, like other medications, can be wonderful for controlling pain, but if misused, they can cause you much grief. Use caution when taking your medications. They are prescribed to help you, not harm you.

GETTING OVER PTSD

Do we ever get over PTSD? I think once we have it, we may learn to live with it and to become more comfortable, but we aren’t “cured” of it. We can get better than we were though.

PTSD causes changes in the brain. Under normal circumstances, the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum communicate with each other. With PTSD, those communications are disrupted and the rational part of your brain cannot tell the amygdala that you are no longer in danger. You remain in an aroused state continually. The hippocampus cannot process information and store it as long-term memory, so you remember the trauma all the time and feel you are still in danger. It is not hopeless though—you can improve.

By using relaxation methods, cognitive therapy, and other treatment modalities, you will begin to improve. Although you may never “get over” PTSD, you will find it easier to live with it as time goes by, provided you get treatment for it. We don’t have to remain locked in the grip of post-traumatic stress. We can choose to move to a better way of living. PTSD doesn’t own us; it is just something we have to deal with as part of who we are.

The Effects of PTSD on Family

If you are the spouse of someone who has PTSD, you probably know what a challenge it can be to keep your household in harmony. Avoidance, nightmares, flashbacks, and so many other symptoms intrude on life and can make things miserable for everyone in the house.

When someone with PTSD avoids social functions, it can leave the spouse feeling abandoned. It can be even worse though if you try to force the issue and insist your spouse attend the activity with you. It’s not a good situation to mix avoidance with anger and fear. The situation can quickly escalate to dangerous levels. Likewise, it can feel like a no-win situation when you attend functions without your spouse and find out later s/he was afraid for you and it increased frustrations.

The one thing you can do to help the situation is to take good care of yourself. Eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t feel guilty for taking some time for yourself each day. Living with PTSD is not easy, and you are in it for the long haul, so it’s important for you to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

GETTING LOST IN THE PAIN

When you have PTSD, you may find you are in such a raw state of emotional tension most of the time that when hard times come along you are totally overwhelmed. It’s not just the discomfort of whatever stressor you’re going through at the moment, but that most of the time we are like a raw wound, so when anything new happens to us just, it gets added to the amount of pain we were already carrying.

Learning to defuse some of the stress on an everyday basis can keep us from crumbling under the pressure. I’ve learned that it is not selfish for me to take some time for myself each day. I refuse to feel guilty for paying attention to and taking care of me. It’s a necessary pressure-release valve. Taking a walk in the woods, playing games on the computer, or watching a favorite television show are all ways of defusing stress. It’s the only chance I have of coping with any additional crises that come along.

What do you do on a daily basis to nurture and care for yourself? What can you use as a pressure-release valve to defuse some of the emotional pain and discomfort you carry with you? Think about the things that replenish you, and take the time to indulge yourself. You’ll be better off for it, I promise!