ADJUST YOUR LIFESTYLE
Your PTSD Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is necessary for effectively tackling stress and reducing anxiety. Maintaining a healthy mind while battling PTSD may not sound simple, but if you carve your own path to healing, it’s more than possible. Also, whether you believe it or not, your stomach health plays a huge role in the maintenance, behavior, and exacerbation of your PTSD symptoms, and excessive and unmanaged stress, paired with a lack of activity can affect your gut. Arming yourself with knowledge about your disorder and symptoms will give you all the tools you need to conquer it and break free from the vast restrictions and limitations it places in your life.
When your mind is working overtime to help you stay balanced and in control, keeping a balanced and healthy diet and lifestyle will serve as fuel for your brain, not just your body. There are countless healthy choices that can help you feel better and reduce your anxiety, which will put you in a better position to manage your PTSD symptoms and reactivity to stressors. If you don’t try to maintain a balanced diet, you will become irritable and more prone to stress. Your emotions impact your appetite, and the foods you eat impact your mood.
Nutrition Basics for PTSD Warriors
PTSD is a complex disorder that involves potential physiological and
biochemical abnormalities in the brain. Nutrition plays an important
role in how we handle stress. This is particularly important for those
of us who suffer from PTSD and it’s army of symptoms. People with PTSD
suffer from hormonal and chemical imbalances in response to stress. Your
thyroid and cortisol levels increase, causing you to experience nuances
like dizziness, abdominal pain, chest pain, or discomfort in different
parts of the body. A good diet is extremely important to help manage the
disorder. Yes, your gut can affect your behavior. Stress depletes
nutrients, but you can counteract that will a healthy diet and
The biggest problem with PTSD nutrition habits is knowing how to keep a diet that can help your brain stay at an optimal and balanced level. When you don’t give your brain the fuel that it needs to function properly, it shuts down systems that utilize large amounts of energy. For example your “will-power” is an incredibly critical system in the management of PTSD, as it can help you make good decisions by influencing what you think, feel, and do. Now imagine achieving goals and acquiring coping mechanisms with your will-power running on low energy. Doesn't sound good right? Well, all you have to do is eat right.
Aside from retraining my brain and learning coping mechanisms and skills, a change in diet was a huge battle buddy against PTSD symptoms. In my view, diet for people with PTSD is directly related to the way they react to stressors. Maintaining a well balanced diet, regardless of your dietary preferences, and keeping proper vitamin levels can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals every day. Please give importance to your diet. Watch what you put in your mouth, and remember it will end up in your stomach and it will have an effect on you. What effect you want it to have is going to be entirely up to you and your desire to win the battle against PTSD.
People who suffer from PTSD must understand the importance of dietary changes to help manage their symptoms. An anti-inflammatory diet that avoids processed foods is highly encouraged. For example, a Mediterranean diet has large amounts of olive oil, unrefined cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruits, oily fish, lean meats, and moderate dairy consumption. Try your best to stick to locally grown foods to ensure freshness and quality.
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9 or folate, helps the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), in order to produce energy. Folic acid is water-soluble, which means the body doesn't store the B vitamins, hence the importance of replenishment.
Folic acid is a key vitamin for brain function and plays an intricate role in mental and emotional health. People with low folate levels tend to be more depressed, and once their depressed, the tend to stay depressed for longer, and their depression can be heavier than others who don’t have a folic acid deficiency. Also, if you’re taking antidepressants, low levels of folic acid could affect how the medicine helps you.
Appropriate levels of folic acid can help alleviate issues such and insomnia and depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the super heart friendly nutrients that can improve any diet. Their job is to make our platelets (blood particles) less sticky to reduce blood clot formation, which can obstruct your blood vessels and induce a heart attack.
Why am I talking about obstructed blood vessels on a PTSD nutrition guideline? Well, I think we can all relate to the sensation of our hearts pounding. It’s a prominent feature of post-traumatic stress disorder. In times of stress, our hearts start pumping at the max. It’s an unpleasant sensation. The presence of omega-3s fatty acids can significantly lower your heart rate.
Many studies continue so that we can learn the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but we already know they have numerous health benefits. People whose diets include lots of fish appear to cut their risk of stroke by 40%. That’s a pretty significant number. Just don’t overdo it. You can make it as simple as eating one small can of tuna - four times a week, and you will be helping your heart and your body in a big way.
Inositol is not a vitamin, although many label it as that. It is a carbohydrate molecule that your body produces from glucose. One its jobs is to serve as insulin, calcium, serotonin, and cholesterol regulator, as well as monitor nerve transmission. So, it’s safe to say that inositol is pretty important for people with PTSD.
Inositol is a valuable natural remedy for the the treatment of depression and anxiety, and it can improve symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorders, both often present for PTSD sufferers. Inositol reduces serotonin receptor function, and prevents the reuptake of serotonin, keeping it active and helping your brain achieve balance.
Inositol deficiency can affect your PTSD symptoms by aggravating issues such as memory loss, constipation, and can lead to higher cholesterol levels.
PABA (Para-Amino Benzoic Acid)
Also known as vitamin Bx, Para-AminoBenzoic Acid (PABA) is an antioxidant that is considered by some as a B complex. But PABA is not a vitamin but an amino acid that is part folic acid. The friendly intestinal bacteria in your body can produce it, and this is good because it’s an essential nutrient.
PABA assists in the formation of red blood cells, it’s important for healthy skin and pigment, and can help your body metabolize and utilize protein.
For PTSD sufferers, PABA deficiency can cause a plethora of problems, or worsen those already present. A shortage of PABA in your body will negatively affect your concentration, nervousness, depression, and irritability. It can also give you frequent headaches, general fatigue, constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.
If you have a physical illness, you are pregnant or lactating, you are an elderly person, or you currently take prescription medicines, please check with a health professional before taking supplements. In some cases, supplements can aggravate certain illnesses or have adverse interaction with medications you’re taking. Make sure you always double check.
This is, by all means, not a complete nutritional guide. It is a basic introduction to a few important nutrition basics that can positively influence your symptoms. Small changes can go a long way in helping you balance and control your PTSD symptoms and how they affect your life, body, and soul.
sleep difficulties to increased tension and stress, trouble
concentrating, fatigue, or low energy, unhealthy living brings a lot of
lifestyle can have incredible impact on our overall health, and not
taking care of ourselves can leave our body and mind vulnerable to
are many healthy choices that can help us feel better. This is
particularly true for those battling symptoms associated with PTSD. Anxiety
plays an intricate adaptive role in our survival. Healthy lifestyle
choices are not meant to fully eliminate anxiety, but put a person in a
better position to manage PTSD related anxiety.
Tips Before you Begin
SET GOALS: Find changes you want to make or things you want to work on and use those to set realistic lifestyle change goals.
START SMALL: Don't
try to change everything at once. Choosing to make one or two changes
and sticking to them consistently work as a good strategy. Remember,
making small changes can have great impact on your life.
BE PATIENT: As with all in life, changes take time to take effect. Being consistent and patient will help you reach your goals. You can do it!
The How to of Healthy Living
SET A ROUTINE
Setting specific times for work, housework, meals, quiet and relaxation time, sleep, and others will make your day more predictable and manageable. Setting a routine will also help you remember the importance of making time for yourself, which will be the foundation of your anxiety management.
Eating healthy means having a balanced diet, not skipping meals, and not following other people's diet plans. A well balanced diet is one that makes you feel good. Don't skip meals, include variety in your foods, watch your sugar intake, add fruits and vegetables as much as possible, drink tons of water. Depending on your set routine, three meals plus two snacks could do the job. If that doesn't work, then you can have 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. Stick to what works for you.
The outdoors is a great way for PTSD sufferers to stay active, heal, and deal with their symptoms. Regular exercise and activity will have a positive impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Being active is a powerful tool to manage stress and anxiety. It doesn't matter how you stay active, just do it! Whether it's walking, bicycling, gardening, hiking, skiing, swimming, speed walking, scuba diving, dancing, or dog walking, aim for at least 20 minutes of activity about 3-4 times a week. You will be amazed at how staying active will positively contribute to your overall healthy lifestyle living.
SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP
Restful sleep is an alien concept for most PTSD sufferers. Bad sleep patterns or sleep difficulties can increase anxiety levels and decrease ability to implement coping mechanisms. How many hours of sleep you need will be dependent on how rested you wake up. It could be 5, 6, or you could need a whole 8 hours of night sleep to function. The estimate is personal, and only you can pinpoint exactly how much sleep you will need. Some people don't need much sleep to function, others do. If changing your lifestyle habits doesn't improve your sleeping patterns, consulting with a health profession will help you gain ground on your battle against PTSD symptoms.
PTSD symptoms can make it difficult for many to make and maintain friends and cultivate relationships, but a support system is one of the cornerstones of healthy living is having a solid support system. These are the people in your life you can always count on to talk, to laugh, to eat, to exercise, and to relax with. Numerous studies have linked a good, solid support system with a person's well-being. This is particularly important for people battling PTSD, as having at least one supportive person in your life can make a big difference.
It's no secret that time management reduces stress. Effectively managing your time and day will decrease the chances of your PTSD symptoms taking over. I always recommend checklists. It can be a daily, weekly, or monthly checklist, but creating one to manage your time and responsibilities will help keep you on task and on track. It will also help you make time for the things you need to do, like relax. Your time management schedule should always include a section of time for yourself.
LEARN TO RELAX
By virtue of its symptomatology, PTSD makes it very difficult to relax. But learning to relax is paramount to healthy living for everyone, especially those with the disorder. Using relaxation strategies and techniques can help lower overall body and mind tension and reduce stress levels. How you choose to relax is entirely up to you, but know that relaxation has to be more than just sitting on the couch to watch TV. Deep relaxation through progressive muscle relaxation and calm breathing will help your body and mind achieve a relaxed state so that you can take on your PTSD symptoms like a warrior.
Problems are a common source of stress for humans. For people with PTSD, the symptoms that accompany the disorder can greatly increase anxiety and reduce problem solving skills. They can also make it difficult to tackle problems. Whether they are family, relationship, work, health, or car issues, creating checklists will help you identify and quickly resolve any problems that come your way. Being prepared for any trouble that comes your way will arm you with a secure way of dealing with nuances, and help you reduce any stress associated with the process of problem solving.
Having a PTSD diagnosis goes hand in hand with high levels of stress and anxiety. Stress reduction should be a priority for everyone battling the disorder. PTSD comes with a set of symptoms that work very hard to ruin your day. The life of a PTSD sufferer can be quite demanding, and not managing and reducing stress levels can have detrimental effects on your overall mental and physical health. Learn do deal with problems. Take the time to reach out to your support system for help, whenever needed. Do whatever you need to do to help reduce your stress: go for a walk, call a friend, watch a funny TV show or movie. Give yourself a little extra time to do things, to get to places, to accomplish tasks. We live in a fast paced world that requires rushing to complete tasks, so be sure to make your life and health a priority because everything else can wait.
My Notes on Suicide
Suicide Safety Prevention Plan (SSPP)
Everyone who has had suicidal thoughts should have a plan of action tailored to their needs. A Suicide Safety Prevention Plan (SSPP) can help guide you during a crisis. The point of the plan is to give you a step by step easy to follow plan of action to get help and feel safer in moments when your mind loses control. Keep it with you at all times.
STEP 1: Warning Signs
Recognize your personal warning signs. These are any thoughts, images, moods, situations, and behaviors that show up when a crisis develops. Write as many as you can down, in your own words, describing in detail what they are and how they are making your feel.
STEP 2: Coping Strategies
Make a list of any coping strategies, mechanisms, or skills you can do or use on your own to prevent you from acting upon any urges to hurt yourself.
STEP 3: Social Distraction
Socializing with people who know of your disorder and who can offer support can be a great distraction. Make a list of people and social situations that will help you take your mind away from thoughts and feelings of harming yourself.
STEP 4: Support System
Make a list of family and friends that are part of your PTSD support system, and whom you can call when you are under stress and thinking of hurting yourself.
STEP 5: Professional Help
Contact mental health professionals or agencies: Make a list of names, numbers and/or locations of clinicians, local emergency rooms, and crisis hotlines. Put the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, into your phone.
Ensure your environment is safe: Have you thought of ways in which you might harm yourself? Work with a counselor to develop a plan to limit your access to these means.
Suicide is the ultimate mental disconnect. By definition, suicide is the act or instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally. By my definition, suicide is a person’s refusal, to connect to the world around them in some form, and there is always a way to connect to the world around you. Regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, or creed, many people who contemplate suicide do it because they lack an appropriate connection to their surrounding environment, or they are poisoned by the wrong one. Whether it’s through a partner, a hobby, a job, the outdoors, a calling or something else, there is
always a way for a person with PTSD to connect to and with in this world.
Research found a connection between people who experience traumatic
events and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For those who develop PTSD,
the risk is higher. When everything around you is different and feels
unsafe, finding your connection to the world may need some guidance. If
you frequently have thoughts of suicide, please call or chat with
someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
If you have frequent thoughts of suicide, should be under the care of a mental health professional who can help you find options. However, remember that while mental health professionals and pharmaceutical help will assist you in managing the PTSD symptoms that keep you ‘down,’ ultimately it is you who must learn to control them. It is up to you to take on the task and learn to control and master your symptoms so you are not a slave of mental health professionals and biological medicines your whole life.
Suicidal thoughts are reflections emitted by an untrained brain, and the brain can be retrained.
Thoughts of suicide are in the minds of people with PTSD who are highly anxious and stressed, who haven’t found their place in their new ‘world of symptoms,’ who have convinced themselves that there are no options that can help them, and who lack a solid support system. At some point, it has crossed a PTSD sufferer’s mind. Even those who don’t suffer from the disorder have thoughts of ending their lives.
People who think about suicide generally consider the option as a form of relief to their suffering. For them, it is not about dying, it’s about ending or stopping the pain because they cannot cope with it. For many PTSD sufferers, thoughts of suicide are not a sign of weakness, but a sign that the person does not have all the knowledge about their disorder and has not been able to find the appropriate approach to tackle the symptoms that keep depressing them to the point of suicidal thoughts. Finding, searching, discovering, and learning about all of the PTSD symptoms that affect you at at personal and professional level will give you the necessary tools to tackle the suffering like a pro, and help you understand that suicide is really the ultimate form of disconnect because you haven’t even started trying options to heal.