It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by PTSD symptoms. Here are a few simple yet powerful ways to feel better.
Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be exhausting. People with this condition may experience flashbacks, intense anxiety, hypervigilance, and emotional detachment. And it can sometimes feel like you’re on your own — but you’re far from alone.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 50% of people will experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime.
Trauma can be any incident that causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm. Some examples of traumatic events include:
- physical or sexual assault
- domestic violence
- surviving natural disasters
- medical emergencies and their treatment
- being in a life threatening accident
A holistic approach means treating the whole person, rather than just focusing on treating symptoms. Medication can help alleviate PTSD symptoms but won’t address the underlying trauma.
To do that, therapy and self-care techniques are the best methods.
Can you get rid of PTSD by yourself?
Like most types of mental health conditions, there is no definitive cure for PTSD. But it can be effectively managed.
For most folks living with this condition, a combination of medication, trauma therapies, and self-care techniques is most effective. These treatments can mitigate symptoms and help you process the traumatic event(s) that triggered them.
With the right treatment, people with PTSD live happy, fulfilled lives in which they feel safe. The following self-care tips can be used with any treatments recommended by your doctor or psychiatrist.
Self-care tips for PTSD
Below are some self-care techniques that may help you manage your PTSD symptoms. Keep in mind that everyone’s path to healing looks a little different, and try not to feel discouraged if you try something that doesn’t work for you.
Finding the right treatment plan may be a process, but you’ll get there.
Mindfulness meditation, which emphasizes a focus on the present moment, can be highly effective for folks with PTSD. A 2017 meta-analysis of several studies found that those who practiced mindfulness showed significantly lower levels of PTSD symptoms than those in a control group.
Transcendental meditation is another technique that may be helpful, per a 2019 study.
If you’re not sure how to get started with meditation, here’s a beginner’s guide.
Social withdrawal can be both a symptom and a complication of PTSD. So, it makes sense that social support can significantly decrease the severity of symptoms, as a
Your support network doesn’t have to be huge. Having one or two people you know you can trust is all it takes. Your support network might include your partner, family members, friends, therapist, and anyone else you feel safe opening up to.
These groups can include people who are also living with PTSD, who can probably relate to at least some of what you’re experiencing. Sharing your story with people who get it, and hearing from other people about how they manage PTSD, can make a big difference.
Deep breathing techniques can help reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn reduces anxiety and tension.
Many people habitually take shallow breaths without even realizing it — it’s part of the body’s natural fight, flight, or freeze response, which is often overactive in people living with PTSD. Consciously taking deep breaths from your diaphragm can de-escalate the protective response.
One popular method is the 4-7-8 technique. This involves breathing in through the nose for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and then exhaling through the mouth for 8 seconds.
Here’s a guide to a few more deep breathing techniques you may find helpful.
Distracting yourself doesn’t have to mean avoiding a problem. In fact, when they’re used mindfully, distraction techniques can be a powerful tool for folks living with PTSD.
A distraction technique is anything that keeps your mind occupied. It could be anything you enjoy, from reading to cooking to playing a game on your phone.
There are lots of free mental health apps that can help you distract from, become more conscious of, and reframe your triggers in real time.
From soundscapes to guided meditations and affirmations to therapeutic strategies, there’s something for everything you may be feeling.
Physical activity can be a very powerful tool for most mental health conditions, including PTSD.
If you live with PTSD, you may feel torn between the present and the past. As much as you want to be present, traumatic memories have a strong pull. Using an anchor can help ground you in the present.
Your anchor might be an object you carry with you, which you can hold to stay focused on your senses. It could be a phrase you repeat either in your head or out loud, like “I am safe.”
Grounding also works by connecting you to your surroundings. You could do this by:
- describing your environment
- trying to find an object for each letter of the alphabet
- counting every object of a particular color
Here’s our helpful primer on everyday grounding exercises.
Interaction with animals can help reduce anxiety and loneliness.
And for PTSD in particular, research suggests that a dedicated service animal may help reduce distress and make everyday life easier.
Depending on your particular needs, you may want to consider getting a service dog or emotional support animal to help with your PTSD symptoms. Consider this carefully, as adopting an animal is a big investment and commitment.
A service dog is a dog that’s been specifically trained to help an owner with a disability. The criteria for emotional support animals are broader.
You can read more about pets for mental health assistance here.
Living with PTSD can be challenging. You may find yourself in a constant state of hyperarousal, feeling on edge, anxious, and irritable without knowing why. You may experience flashbacks, panic attacks, or have trouble sleeping. Given all of this, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed.
But PTSD can respond very well to treatment. As you work with health professionals to find the best options, you can manage your condition by trying some of the self-help techniques outlined above.
Here’s a list of other resources you may find helpful: