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Healthy Ways to Cope with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a tremendous impact on a person’s life. The symptoms affect relationships, moods, and the ability to live a normal and effective life. When not dealt with properly, PTSD symptoms can lead to unhealthy ways of coping, such as drug or alcohol use. But when direct action is taken to improve things, a trauma survivor can put themselves in a position of power. And they can make healthy decisions to manage PTSD and improve their quality of life.

Recovery Is a Process

Knowing and understanding that recovery is a time-consuming process will help you feel more in control. It takes time and happens little by little. A magical spell will not cure all problems. Instead, healing will occur with time and knowledge. Learn about the diagnosis of PTSD, its causes, and its consequences. The more information you have, the better you are able to cope with the problem.

Talk to Others

PTSD can make you feel disconnected from those around you. It is important not to isolate yourself, because when survivors open-up and talk to others, something helpful occurs. Creating supportive relationships with people you trust is key. Although it may be difficult to disclose information with them, the more social support someone has, the more likely healing will take place.

A PTSD support group is a great option. Listening to the experiences of others can help validate similar feelings and help you feel less isolated. Support groups also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and the opportunity to learn how others have overcome the effects of a traumatic experience.

See a Therapist

Part of taking care of yourself is using the resources around you. If PTSD symptoms worsen over time, it is important to reach out for professional help. Many mental health professionals specialize in the treatment of PTSD. And there are many medications that have been found to be effective in addressing symptoms. A therapist can help manage the symptoms, and provide support to manage a return to better health.

Get Moving

Our emotional health is strongly connected to our physical health. Exercise can do more than just release endorphins and improve your mood and outlook, but it can also help your nervous system become “unstuck.” Engaging in physical exercise can redirect your focus from your thoughts to how your body feels. Many activities cause you to focus on your body movements because, after all, if you don’t focus on those movements when exercising, you may get hurt.

Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, or golf help cope with PTSD. The relaxation, seclusion, and peace that comes from being outdoors will benefit anyone and will have an added impact when exercising.

Eat Healthy

Since the symptoms of PTSD can be hard on your body it is important to develop healthy habits at the dinner table. A balanced, nutritious meal will keep your energy up and your mind clear. Omega-3s play a role in emotional health and can be found in walnuts, flaxseed, or fatty fish. Limit processed and fried foods and sugars, which can cause changes in your energy and intensify mood swings. Although it may be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, substance use interferes with treatment and worsens many symptoms of PTSD.

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Engage in Positive Activities

With PTSD, certain activities that were once fun and pleasurable may no longer be that way. Or, activities that were once enjoyed, may now bring about feelings of fear. It is important to continue to do the things you used to enjoy. They may not feel the same, but engaging in these activities may prevent symptoms from getting worse. And with time, these activities will once again be fun and pleasurable while improving your mood and rebuilding your life.

Utilize Healthy Distraction

Distraction is about getting through a tough moment and can be a useful way to cope with stressful thoughts or feelings. These emotions can seem overpowering, but a distraction from reading a book, exercising, or talking to a friend can be just what is needed to get through the tough moments.

Try a number of healthy ways to cope with PTSD and discover which ones are most helpful. Some strategies may work in certain situations, but not in others. The more tools you have to manage your symptoms, the better off you will be. So be flexible, and try different healthy strategies while coping with PTSD.

Healthy Ways to Cope with PTSD

Darren DeYoung

Darren DeYoung is a guest writer for Allison Holt & Associates, a Minnesota-based psychiatry practice serving children, adolescents and adults. The views expressed in here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Allison Holt & Associates.

APA Reference
DeYoung, D. (2018). Healthy Ways to Cope with PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 1 Mar 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.