Living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may seem like adding insult to injury. You continue to suffer even after something terrible has happened to you or someone you know, and that’s not very fair. It makes life more challenging than it ever needs to be. You may find it hard to undertake what may seem the simplest of everyday tasks or go out of your way to avoid certain events, people, and places so that you aren’t reminded of the event and don’t have to experience the intensity of those emotions all over again.
PTSD originates from trauma, and this can be as different as the person experiencing it––a car accident, sexual assault, death of a close friend or family member, even an on-going traumatic experience, such as domestic abuse, or something else entirely. There is no hierarchy here; everyone feels trauma in their own way, and not everyone will encounter PTSD because of it. But for those who do there is no shame in it, and despite how it feels; the world isn’t ending, and there is hope. Below, we will uncover more about the various coping techniques to manage the condition––therapeutic approaches and medicine––and look at the best meditation techniques for PTSD that may complement your treatment and lead to a stronger, healthier you.
What is PTSD?
Before we dive straight into solutions, let’s talk about the issue at hand––what is PTSD?
Post traumatic stress disorder is a type of stress and trauma disorder which can happen in the aftermath of a traumatic event; whether you experienced it yourself, witnessed the event or had it happen to someone you know.
Usually, symptoms appear between one month to a year afterward, but in some cases, it can be triggered later down the line by particular stimuli.
If you have PTSD, it’s likely you’ve experienced or are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Reliving the trauma and feeling like it is happening all over again;
- Trouble sleeping, insomnia, and nightmares;
- Becoming distressed or emotional at reminders of the traumatic event;
- Avoiding things related to the event, including people, activities, and places;
- Find yourself trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event;
- Experienced negative changes in your mood, including depression, hopelessness, detachment, numbness, agitation;
- Have trouble maintaining relationships with those around you;
- Feeling always alert and easily startled;
- Guilt and shame;
- And even aggression.
While this list is not extensive (full diagnostic criteria can be found here), it will give you some indication of what is happening to you and if you need to see a doctor.
What to do about PTSD?
If you have suspicions that you have PTSD, it is vital you seek help and don’t try to manage things by yourself. Contact your doctor and tell them how you are feeling; from this point, this will suggest one or a number of treatment methods.
These can include:
1. Waiting and watching
If your symptoms haven’t been occurring for very long (<4 weeks) your physician may take the “wait and watch” approach before initiating treatment. Symptoms may resolve by themselves, but expect a follow-up in around a month.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
By adapting how you act and think CBT helps you process what happened and gain control of your behaviors and emotions.
3. Exposure therapy
Targeting the avoidance and fear symptoms of PTSD, exposure therapy works to expose you to your fears in a safe environment to overcome them.
4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
A newish treatment for PTSD, EMDR asks you to recall and retell the traumatic event while practicing a specific eye movement, after several sessions, the effect of the trauma appears reduced.
5. Group therapy
Many people find solace and healing in group therapy. By talking through your symptoms and experiences and comparing them with others, you may find them easier to cope with.
Used when trauma is ongoing, therapeutic solutions have little to no effect, or another medical condition causes difficulties in dealing with your PTSD.
The type of therapy you have will largely depend on your individual circumstances and the recommendations of your doctor.
How can meditation help?
Recently, research has supported one additional technique for dealing with post-traumatic stress. Guided meditation for PTSD is said to have a number of key benefits for those struggling with the aftermath of traumatic events.
Here’s how meditation for trauma can help healing:
Experience physical and psychological relaxation
If your body is tense, your mind will be unable to relax and unwind. Not only is this dangerous for your health but it could prove a barrier between you and reducing your symptoms. PTSD meditation allows you to relax your mind and body using effective techniques and leads you better prepared to cope with the root causes for your PTSD.
Become more connected
Once you begin meditating, you may find yourself more aware of and connected with the world around you and your body. Meditation not only helps you grow in confidence but also allows you to begin to reconnect with the physical world. PTSD can leave a psychological barrier for many people, and one of the best ways to overcome it is to get back to reality and experience life.
Develop better coping strategies with mindfulness
As you grapple with the symptoms of PTSD, one of the most difficult can be dealing with the everyday things that trigger your responses. Mindfulness for PTSD works by helping you develop coping strategies for those everyday scenarios. Using mindfulness and meditation techniques allow you to retake control of the situation, which, over time, will reduce the intensity of your post-traumatic stress.
Key things to know about PTSD meditation
Before embarking on your meditation journey, these are the crucial facts you need to know:
1. Meditation isn’t a cure-all solution
While meditation has proven helpful in treating PTSD, it works best when combined with a more complex approach, and that means working with your doctor to find a solution that works for you.
2. Learn from someone experienced
Trying to start meditation all by yourself may be a solution for some, but it’s not for everyone. Learn how to effectively meditate from a skilled practitioner to get the most from your experience. It might even be helpful to look for a therapist with specific knowledge of PTSD and meditation practice.
3. Find a safe space
To become relaxed, you first have to feel safe, and that means practicing meditation in a safe environment. This may mean avoiding triggers of the trauma, including the places and people it occurred around, or anything else that doesn’t make you feel at ease.
Note: while at first, as with any therapy, you may feel your PTSD symptoms more intensely; however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That said, if you notice that you feel unable to cope or are having suicidal thoughts, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Remember, you are not alone, you are strong, and things will get better.