Throughout life we all experience ups and downs. Life comes with its challenges and struggles that we navigate and overcome on a daily basis. These minor events can come with stress but once the situation is resolved, your stress should dissipate. However, throughout life we also experience unforeseeable, uncontrollable events that are particularly terrifying and perhaps life threatening. These major life experiences can impact us on a greater scale, impairing our ability to sleep, manifesting in reoccurring memories or nightmares, and feeling on edge. When an experience impacts us in this way and persists well beyond the experience, it’s possible you are experiencing Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
PTSD can result after experiencing or witnessing a personally traumatic event. It’s important to keep in mind that PTSD symptoms can appear later and can come and go over time. There are many causes of PTSD. Some of the more common causes of PTSD include combat and war, medical issues that require hospitalization, motor vehicle accidents, abuse, loss, and grief. These are just a few examples of causes of PTSD, but PTSD can result from any traumatic experience. It’s important to always remember that our life experiences shape our perception of future situations and experiences. We all have different life experiences and there for, experience events differently. A friend or family member may experience the same or a similar event and have a different response. Honor your personal feelings and experience and don’t ever compare your emotions with someone else’s. Your experience is unique to you.
PTSD symptoms, if left unaddressed, can interfere with your ability to carry out tasks of everyday living and cause disruption in your life. Even if the event took place a long time ago, you can still experience the physiological and psychological impact for months and even years later. Finding healthy ways to manage and cope with your symptoms is essential to protecting your mental and physical well-being. No matter what your experience was, there are numerous modalities for managing symptoms of PTSD like anxiety, depression, anger, energy levels, inability to achieve a state of calm and your ability to cope with stressful situations. Among these are:
- Tai Chi
Meditation is a mind-body practice that uses a variety of techniques to train our attention, awareness, and focus. Meditation also serves as a tool for us to bring awareness to our physical body and our breathing, allowing thoughts to come and go but not entertaining or giving life to them. Meditation is a great tool to help achieve clarity and calm the mind and emotion. Often times after experiencing a traumatic event we find ourselves in a state of hyperarousal. This can make it very difficult for you to achieve a state of calm. Tools like meditation are so important to have in your self-care toolbox because symptoms such as intrusive thoughts and anxiety can be triggered and spring to life at any moment. Being able to calm your nervous system when you are aroused is not only effective for coping, but it is also empowering. Knowing you have a built-in toolbox, that you can utilize at any moment is very powerful and gives you control over the situation.
Another powerful tool for managing PTSD symptoms is mindfulness. Mindfulness is actually a form of meditation where you practice bringing awareness to what one is feeling and sensing in the moment and without judgement. It is common for individuals with PTSD to experience repetitive and unpleasant thoughts that they feel they cannot distance themselves from. Mindfulness is especially beneficial in this scenario because it helps us come back to the present moment. By bringing yourself to the present moment and focusing on what’s before you, you can create some distance between yourself and the unpleasant thoughts. Even if it’s just for a moment. As we practice mindfulness we strengthen our ability to refocus our minds to the present moment, over and over again, weakening the unpleasant, reoccurring thoughts.
Breathwork is a powerful tool that can be utilized anytime, anywhere. Breathwork is a term used to refer to a variety of different breathing techniques that can effectively slow the breath, relax our autonomic nervous system, and calm our mental state. This tool is especially beneficial for the moments when you are feeling hyperarousal. Once you become familiar with a breathing pattern you can utilize it completely undetected. Many public speakers practice deep breathing to calm their nerves and steady their voice before going on stage. There are many different types of breathing techniques, and we highly encourage you try as many as you can, until you find one that works well for you. A word of caution if you are new to breathwork. Some breathing exercises can cause lightheadedness or dizziness. Speak with a medical professional before self-initiating a practice.
Tai Chi is another mind-body exercise that has benefits for PTSD symptoms. In fact, Tai Chi not only incorporates meditation and breathwork, but also has a focus on movement. Tai Chi is often referred to as meditation in motion. This alone makes Tai Chi one of our favorite mind-body practices. The practice of Tai Chi focuses on soothing and gentle mindful movements with coordinating breathwork. This practice of focusing your attention on your body and how it moves engages your mind with something other than intrusive thoughts.
These are just a few mind-body practices that can help manage PTSD symptoms. If you or someone you know would like help getting started with exercise and movement for PTSD, we have you covered! Join us for one of our live workshops this month where we take a deeper look at common symptoms of PTSD and how mind-body exercise can help!