May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year NAMI‘s message is ‘Together for Mental Health.’ With so many people experiencing mental health problems, I am using this time to bring a few of the voices of trauma survivors together to advocate mental health. I am so grateful that some of those who participated in PTSD: My Story Project shared their best self-care tips for looking after our mental wellbeing.
Like most mental health problems, there is no definitive cure for PTSD, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. In the PTSD: My Story Project several trauma survivors shared their own stories. They revealed what has helped them to get to where they are now. I started this project a year ago in the hope that the experiences of trauma survivors could encourage others, and that together we can fight against the stigma surrounding mental health. And I am so grateful for their honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to share their own personal experiences. I know it is often hard to recall those memories that can still knock the wind out of us on some days. But I am so glad that there were people who joined me in sharing some powerful and encouraging words. Because we are never alone, and together we are stronger.
I am also grateful that when I asked them to share the self-care tips, that are helping them to manage their PTSD and look after themselves in the best possible way, they didn’t hesitate and jumped on board. So what are the best self-care tips for PTSD from real trauma survivors participating in PTSD: My Story Project?
Let’s find out what can help us take care of our mental well-being and how PTSD can be managed through self-care.
Self-care tips for PTSD
- Nicole Dake @millenialmom
There are several strategies that I use to cope with my PTSD. I attend therapy every two weeks and take several anti-anxiety medications to help with day-to-day symptoms. In addition, I have a daily self-care routine that helps me manage symptoms as well.
Every morning, I wake up and do yoga first thing, and write morning pages in my journal. This helps me get my feelings out and start the day feeling fresh and focused. Before bed, I also do 10-15 minutes of meditation, which has drastically improved my sleep.
When I start to have a panic attack, I first take my fast-acting medications and then try to do some deep breathing. I have a panic attack script that I go through, which includes some affirmations that I say to make myself feel calm again (you can find Nicole’s book ‘Trauma Survivor’s Guide to Coping With Panic Attacks’ here). Typically, I will tell myself that I am safe and that nothing is going to hurt me. Living in a safe home has really helped me to be able to believe that these words are true. Now, I am able to calm down from a panic attack in a couple of hours, instead of taking days.
Check out Nicole’s story here: The Path Out of Darkness
- Leigh Hurst @Purposeful Living Healing Center
When I think of tools I incorporate into my daily living situation, they are the type of tools that help me on my spiritual journey. They are the main activities I need to help with the PTSD, anxiety, or tension my system is holding onto.
A morning practice really helps to begin my day. I like to thank my bed for holding me all night. Then I set the intention for the day. By doing this you are setting forth the energy you would like to surround yourself with.
I truly enjoy having those first sips of orange juice, starting incense, choosing essential oils for my diffusers, working with my plants in the morning sun, and listening to a form of meditation that suits my needs for the day. I can choose to sit on my meditation cushion and listen to the meditation, or I can listen as I am taking care of my plants. Also, I love practicing shaking medicine for movement and shaking off energy that may not be mine or any type of negativity that I am holding onto.
Read Leigh’s story here: Mindfulness and PTSD
- Emily Natani @Emily Fischer-Natani
For me, PTSD is a chronic condition, comparable to my chronic illness. The ways in which I cope are to not allow the fear and anxiety commonly associated with it to creep into my life. This is not fully proof, and I am always a work in progress, nor do I believe this is simple or easy. I accept the feelings for what they are. In fact, many times I surrender myself fully to them. My trauma happens daily and is not in the past nor a one-time event. It has been fourteen years of constant PTSD. Given that mine is so present, I have to manage my life quite differently.
What I usually do is distract myself first. I have two children and run a household along with managing many illnesses. So, I am able to get lost in this. Secondly, I listen to mind/body podcasts, exercise to the best of my ability, and lastly, I ask myself one question. What would help at this moment, even if just by one percent? Usually, I am able to answer with a TV documentary, a game with my kids, writing, and stopping the task I am currently doing as it is making things worse. Maybe it is being present at that moment and allowing all of the feelings I suppress to come to the surface and confront them.
I recently went through a very traumatic miscarriage and I am learning that it’s OK to be angry at the world sometimes. Give in, but don’t give up and find what little peace you can. There is no direction manual on how to properly deal with PTSD, but I can say that you are the one driving. Don’t forget that.
View Emily’s story here: Your Story Does Not Define You
Read also ‘How to Support Someone With PTSD?‘
- Jannette Fuller @Jannette Fuller
The outdoors is essential to my overall health. The sun provides my daily dose of Vitamin D while the country breeze refreshes my tired eyes. But it’s with every step I take that benefits me the most. Walking decreases the effects of trauma stored in my brain and body–an everyday struggle–as adrenaline and cortisol are released from my system. Along with other toxins and unwanted calories.
But beautiful landscapes and physical activity are not the only ways that bring relief and healing. Spending time with God is my top priority. This is why my mornings begin with a cup of coffee, reading the Bible, and praying for others and myself. That said, about three weeks ago, I decided to add Scripture to my daily walks. So, when I walk around the property, my soul is being nourished (with truth, love, encouragement, and comfort–through a comfy pair of headphones) as my body continues to release stress while being strengthened. Whether I walk for thirty or sixty minutes a day, moving my body while listening to God’s Word, is proving to make a difference for the better.
P.S. Dark chocolate and aromatherapy make delightful bonuses to my self-care routine.
You can read Jannette’s story here: You Are Never Alone
- Caitlin Lagnese @ReelChat
Firstly I want to thank Journeyofsmiley for having me as a guest on her PTSD: My Story Project. I love sharing my story with like-minded others. The truth is, for a lot of us, our mental condition will be something we deal with for life. That can be rather daunting when you think about it. While I have dealt with my past sexual trauma, I still have bipolar depression, clinical depression, and OCD. While dealing with my trauma lessened a lot of my depression and OCD symptoms, I knew this journey would be lifelong. Truthfully, I am grateful for my mental struggles because it has led me to a life full of empathy and gratitude; it has led me to start my very own mental health and wellness blog.
So, today I wanted to share what I do on a normal basis to take care of my mental health! I check in often with my therapist and psychiatrist and stay on top of taking my meds. Also important for me is my daily gratitude and affirmation practice. I make sure to carve out some time monthly for me (think mental health day). It is crucial that I stay busy and productive but not overly so which I tend to do when my OCD is flared. I make sure to nourish my relationships with my family and friends. So I go on monthly date nights with my hubby and play hard with my kiddos. This helps me stay active and engaged. I am a member of a fitness franchise called Fit4Mom. Attending church as often as possible helps me stay rooted in my faith.
However, the biggest thing I do, I would say, is simply to pay attention. It may sound silly but being self-aware and honest about my mental health has been a game-changer. I am just now starting to pick up what my triggers are. Because even after we deal with trauma, triggers live on. So for me, this looks like making sure I avoid rape scenes in movies. I limit my social media usage and make sure I am not overly busy or avoiding my feelings by self-sabotaging. I make sure that if I notice myself binging or eating more than usual, then I question my behavior. Self-awareness is the key!
Check out Caitlin’s story here: Learning to Thrive After Trauma
Be there for yourself
We are all different and have our own beliefs and values. And whilst we all cope with things differently, there is no doubt that by looking after our mental well-being we can ease our PTSD symptoms. Perhaps you have already tried some of the self-care tips that the trauma survivors have shared for your own PTSD and hopefully, they are working well for you. Alternatively, maybe they have inspired you to try some of their strategies. There are many different techniques and practices. And you may want to find out which ones would work best for you. I believe that you will be able to find an approach that works for you from the wide choice mentioned.
I can only add that being honest and kind to ourselves is critical to our recovery journey. Never forget this. Healing is very personal, so be there for yourself without judgment. The best way out is through it. And I am thankful to the PTSD survivors for sharing the self-care tips that can help us on our journey.
Thank you and till the next blog post,
Read some more real-life stories from trauma survivors here: ‘PTSD: My Story Project‘.
Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post?
I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.
And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you. The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.
To be featured
If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still contact me, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.
The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it. You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.Follow Journeyofsmiley on WordPress.com
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