At the beginning of my journey to healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – I first learned how to manage symptoms.
There are symptoms common in these trauma-induced disorders including: anxiety, hypervigilance, dissociation, emotional dysregulation, re-experiencing symptoms – flashbacks (visual, somatic, emotional), intrusive memories.
One of the first aims in therapy – is to learn how to manage these symptoms. I know not everyone has access to therapy, so I share what I’ve learned.
The following are skills I developed and still use today:
A tool and coping skills in learning to control breathing, helps reduce anxiety, hypervigilance and helps during times of stress and overwhelm.
Why do deep breathing? Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Deep breathing relieves stress and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the nervous system. And deep breathing activates specific neurons that detect blood pressure. These neurons signal to the vagus nerve that blood pressure is becoming too high, and the vagus nerve in turn responds by lowering your heart rate.
- Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.
- Relax your body, arms and legs as much as possible.
- Big breathe through the nose, for a count of 4.
- Hold for a count of 3.
- Breathe out through the mouth, exhaling for a count of 3.
- When breathing out, try to exhale as much air out of the lungs as possible.
- Repeat and continue for a few minutes, or as long as you can.
- Try to this as many times a week as possible, and utilise this while in stressful, anxiety activating situations.
- Practise and integrate this into your daily life and it will become easier over time.
- The more you integrate this, the more you automatically start to control your breathing at times of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.
There are great resources to help with this on YouTube. Phone apps are useful and I personally recommend Smiling Mind.
Grounding is a coping tool and skill for staying present in the current moment, and helps with dissociation, flashbacks and emotion regulation.
Using the 5 senses, we can ‘ground’ ourselves to keep the attention on the here and now. The following list is excellent from Living.well.org.au
- Remind yourself of who you are now. Say your name. Say your age now. Say where you are now. Say what you have done today. Say what you will do next.
- Take ten breaths, focus your attention on each breath on the way in and on the way out. Say number of the breath to yourself as you exhale.
- Splash water on your face.
- Sip a cool drink of water.
- Hold a cold can or bottle of soft drink in your hands. Feel the coldness, and the wetness on the outside. Note the bubbles and taste as you drink.
- As you wake, during the night, remind yourself who you are, and where you are. Tell yourself who you are and where you are. What age are you now? Look around the room and notice familiar objects and name them. Feel the bed your are lying on, the warmth or coldness of the air, and notice any sounds you hear.
- Feel the clothes on your body, whether your arms and legs are covered or not, and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them.
- If you are with other people, and you feel comfortable with them, concentrate closely on what they are saying and doing, and remind yourself why you are with them.
- If you are sitting feel the chair under you and the weight of your body and legs pressing down onto it.
- If you are lying down, feel the contact between your head, your body and your legs, as they touch the surface you are lying on. Starting from your head, notice how each past feels, all the way down to your feet, on the soft or hard surface.
- Stop and listen. Notice and name what you can hear nearby and in the distance.
- Hold a mug of tea in both hands and feel its warmth. Don’t rush drinking it, take small sips and take your time tasting each mouthful.
- Look around you, notice what is front of you and to each side, name first large objects and then smaller ones.
- Get up, walk around, take your time to notice each step as you take one then another.
- Stamp your feet notice the sensation and sound as you connect with the ground.
- Clap and rub your hands together, hear the noise and feel the sensation in your hands and arms.
- Wear an elastic band on your wrist (not tight) and flick it gently, so that you feel it spring back on your wrist as it
- If you can, step outside, notice the temperature of the air and how much it is different or similar to where you have just come from.
- Notice five things you can see, five things you can hear, and five things you can feel, taste, or smell.
- If you have a pet, spend some time with them. Notice what is special and different about them.
- Run your hands over something with an interesting texture. Describe it in your mind, as if you have never felt anything like it before.
- Get a sultana, a nut, or some seeds. Focus on how it looks, feels and smells. Put it in your mouth and roll it around, noticing how it feels. Chew it slowly and mindfully, before noticing how it feels to swallow.