Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition many of us think affects military veterans or those suffering severe abuse. But the truth is that millions of Americans struggle with PTSD on a regular basis. In fact, one in 15 people will develop PTSD in their lifetime. Anyone exposed to a significant stress for a length of time may be at risk. This not only applies to trauma responders and abuse victims but anyone who suffers prolonged stress. And this has important relevance today as millions deal with the threats associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
From frontline healthcare workers to the millions dealing with unemployment, PTSD risks are prevalent today. Many mental health experts expect a significant rise in PTSD in the aftermath of the pandemic. Therefore, it is essential to identify steps each of us can take in preventing PTSD from developing. Effective stress management techniques need to be employed now if we are to make a significant difference. And fortunately, many steps can be taken to help us build resilience and manage stress in more effective ways. Indeed, we need to be taking precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19. But we should also recognize appreciate important strategies in the bold fight to protect our mental wellness along the way.
Knowing the Facts About PTSD
As the name suggests, post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that develops after someone is exposed to a traumatic experience. However, not everyone who suffers trauma gets PTSD. In some cases, minor trauma may be enough to trigger PTSD features. In others, individuals may avoid PTSD despite enduring horrific events in their lives. Advancing age, severity of life stresses, and genetics play a role in determining if someone may actually develop PTSD. But so does the way we choose to respond to the stresses we encounter. This means that specific strategies can be used in preventing PTSD when we are at risk.
A number of stress management techniques can be used to help us in this regard. But first, it helps to appreciate what PTSD looks like. In general, mental health experts look for a combination of features that suggest this condition exists. These features include intrusive memories, thoughts, and emotions about a past event that are difficult to suppress. Likewise, PTSD individuals often engage in avoidance behaviors of any situation that mind remind them of the event. PTSD sufferers also tend to experience a wide range of negative emotions. These can include anger, depression, irritability, and self-blame among others. While these can be managed, the better approach involves preventing PTSD in the first place.
Stress Management Techniques That Work
In preventing PTSD, the goal is to promote 2 important tools that we need to help us cope with stress. The first of these is skills in self-regulation. By being better able to self-regulate our thoughts, emotions, and reactions, we improve our ability to tolerate prolonged or intense stress. The second involves our capacity for resilience. Resilience represent our ability to bounce back from a stressful experience. Thus, by boosting our resilience, we also become more adept in preventing PTSD. With this in mind, the following are some important stress management techniques that can help us in this bold endeavor.
Therapists and researchers alike appreciate the impact positivity has on preventing PTSD from developing. By engaging in positive thoughts and feelings, we are actually able to change brain chemistries. These changes have far-reaching health effects, and one of these pertains to improved mood and mental wellness. Practicing gratitude, focusing on positive effects, and being thankful for small wins can make a big difference. And this builds your capacity for self-regulation while making your resilience to stress more powerful.
Studies have demonstrated that distractions can also be effective in preventing PTSD. Such distractions help us from dwelling on an issue for an excessive amount of time. Stress management techniques that encourage healthy distractions are among the best. These may include exercise, engaging conversations, or various forms of entertainment. It is important to appreciate, however, that distractions should not be used to promote avoidance. Distractions help to reduce the intensity of the stress but should not replace consciously recognizing its presence.
Leaning on Social Supports
By leaning on friends and family to help us, we acknowledge we are dealing with stress in some way. As a result, we are more likely to express negative thoughts and emotions we are experiencing. Likewise, we are less likely to engage in avoidance when talking to someone we trust. As a result, we enlist others to help us better self-regulate our responses. We also build stronger resilience through their support. This represents one of the most effective stress management techniques in preventing PTSD occurrence.
Mindfulness and Meditation
One of the best ways to enhance self-regulation abilities is through mindfulness and meditation practices. Mindfulness allows us to recognize the thoughts and emotions we are experiencing. Meditation invites relaxation and a deeper spiritual awareness. Both can therefore help us better understand ourselves and accept how our body and minds are responding. With this awareness, we become better at preventing PTSD by choosing different responses that are healthier. Both are excellent stress management techniques in boosting resilience and self-regulation capacities.
Proper Physical Care
When we take good care of our physical wellbeing, we naturally improve resilience in other areas. Therefore, eating well, performing routine exercise, and getting adequate sleep are basic yet effective stress management techniques we should practice. Without question, our capacity to enjoy good mental health is linked to good physical health. Therefore, in order to optimize our ability in preventing PTSD, we should also invest in our physical wellness also.
The Time for Preventing PTSD is Now
In the past, healthcare has focused too much on managing disease and not enough on preventing illness. However, disease prevention and health promotion are much more effective in achieving real quality of life. This is true for most health disorders, and it’s true for PTSD as well. Recent surveys now suggest that half of all healthcare workers are at risk for PTSD today. Likewise, some predict over 20 percent of the population could be unemployed in the near future. Without question, these are stressful times. Therefore, the time to be bold and adopt stress management techniques in preventing PTSD is now. By including these simply practices in your life, you can boost your resilience and self-regulation ability. And these are the key in preventing PTSD and leading the healthy life you deserve.