There are many valuable approaches for addressing PTSD. A powerful starting point is to focus on the issues and challenges that accompany the letter “T” in the disorder’s full name: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The source of this disorder is trauma. How trauma impacts us varies, of course. But it has some universal aspects. One of these has to do with trauma’s imprint on our physical self.
Trauma is the source of this disorder. How trauma impacts us varies, of course. But it has some universal aspects. One of these has to do with trauma’s imprint on our physical self.
Many of us are already familiar with the psychological symptoms of PTSD, e.g.
- Feeling of depression, isolation, detachment, and loneliness
- Anxiety, guilt, and depression
- Flashbacks, reliving traumatic events
- Lost trust and a desire towards avoidance
- No longer find interest in activities that were once pleasurable activities
- Self-destructive behavior
Far less known are many varied or subtle physical symptoms, e.g.
- Insomnia, sleep disturbances
- Distorted vision and/or hearing, ringing in ears
- Full-body muscle pain, tightness, and tension
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues, unexplained weight gain
- Back pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Skin problems
- New allergies, old allergies more active
This is a decidedly incomplete list but it should give you an idea of how trauma impacts us in surprising or less obvious ways. With this in mind, how can we tap into our body’s wisdom as we work to heal? What basic steps can we try to meld for a physical and emotional approach to trauma?
3 Ways to Support Yourself as You Recover from PTSD
1. Begin and maintain a practice of basic self-care
Once we begin understanding how trauma plays out on our physical self, we’ll move towards more effective self-care. Our bodies need daily support to heal and to provide a foundation for emotional healing. The basics are the best way to start:
Regular sleep patterns: As mentioned above, PTSD can negatively affect our sleep. Counter this by creating regular, reliable patterns for rest to help you tune into your body’s natural rhythms.
Healthy eating habits: Once again, this addresses self-love and common PTSD symptoms. The negative role of trauma on digestion is well-known. Thus, it becomes more crucial than ever to become mindful of your eating habits.
Daily exercise and activity: We were born to move. Despite all the devices and gadgets that try to keep us sedentary, our bodies are happiest when active.
From these basics, we can next integrate methods that involve the body and mind. For example, there are stress management techniques like yoga, Tai Chi, breathing exercises and meditation that both soothe and strengthen.
2. Listen to the body
Our bodies have so much wisdom to share but we must receptive. PTSD can often dull the senses and dampen our curiosity. Trauma is also mainly physiological, even though it does have emotional and mental symptoms.Trusting the process of talking to and listening to our bodies is a powerful step. We do more than just work to push past the impact of PTSD. By getting in touch with our physical selves, we also discover new paths toward healing.
3. Practice mindfulness
Our trauma occurred in the past. Our fear of reliving that trauma (or encountering new trauma) is all about the future. In the present moment, we can feel what’s real inside our bodies. It’s where and when the communication happens. Mindfulness is a daily practice—actually, more like a moment to moment practice—that can help us create space to practice self-care, communication, and healing.
Complex problems call for flexible solutions
There’s no one “right” way to heal from PTSD. However, the broad range of causes and complexity of symptoms can make any attempt feel hopeless. This is why so many people with PTSD work one-on-one with a therapist. Your weekly sessions are where you can make the connections between cause and effect. The more you explore the mind-body connection, the more options open up to you.