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How to Build Resilience Against Stress as a PTSD Warrior

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In an ever-changing world, those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may find it difficult to adjust. For us, building resistance against stress is the best way to prepare ourselves against the uncertainties that may lie ahead of us.

• What is PTSD?

No matter how you look at it, stress sucks.

Whether you are a typically developed human with no apparent issues, or you are the recipient of one or more mental health disorders, stress affects all of us.

Stress is the effect of physical and emotional changes happening around us. It is our reaction to an event or events based on our perception of the information our brains are receiving. This reaction is controlled and calculated for most people, but for those with PTSD, everything is heightened, hyperaroused and on edge, especially reactions to additional stress.

Stress affects each person differently and causes a variety of reactions in people. Reactions to stress are more marked for those with PTSD, but you must find the warrior within to shift your life and reactions to stress.

As a PTSD Warrior, if you’re not aware of your stress levels, your day can quickly turn into a very bad deal. And if you have not yet learned coping mechanisms and skills to help manage, control and reduce your stress, your stress levels will just continue to escalate and negatively affect all your reactions to stimulus around you.

Sometimes stress is good.

Learning to manage stress will have a positive impact on almost every aspect of your daily life, and that of your loved ones. Stress gears up your body systems to become more alert and energetic. The right amount of stress can increase mental ability, make your nervous system work faster, motivate, thrill and invigorate you.

But it doesn’t work the same way for all of us. As a person living with PTSD, it is paramount to learn to manage stress, especially the additional annoying stress that PTSD brings to your life. Learning to manage stress will help you reap the positive benefits it brings to our lives, without the common negative reactions associated with our PTSD. Anyone can do it, including you.

Learning to productively manage stress can help propel your energy and boost your output levels. This shortens the angry or uncontrolled reaction to negative stimuli around you. When you learn to manage your stress, stressors, stress reactions and stress levels, the dirty dish in the sink will no longer be grounds for war.

To properly manage any stress, you must fully and truly understand that not every stimulus is a negative one, and even negative stimuli should not produce an equally negative reaction. The PTSD brain is wired to find wrong in everything, making a person concentrate on the negative instead of maximizing on the positive, and there is a lot of positive in this world.

To reach a point where you can live a less stressful life, you must understand that you’re not always in imminent danger. It is not always necessary to gather all your resources and fight back or run away from the perceived danger. There are many ways to do this, but turning fear into survival skills is what worked for me.

Also, changing your perspective and view of the world will help you understand that not everything and everyone around you is “out to get you.” Yes, I know… It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible, and everyone with PTSD can overcome stress by retraining their brain.

Controlling how your body deals with stress.

A healthy body and mind are geared to handle stress. A PTSD body and mind must learn to manage the negative effects and far-reaching influences of stress in order to stay in control, balanced and live a fulfilling, happy and measured life. You don’t have to live your life feeling as if you’re walking a tightrope 300 feet up in the air.

For people with PTSD, stress generally has negative effects, especially when unmanaged. The smallest negative influence can turn into an ocean of issues, feeding the brain with pessimism, anger, distrust, rejection and depression.

But it’s not just psychological.

Stress, your body and tummy.

Stress can have many psychosomatic manifestations:

From a mild headache to a monster migraine.
From a little tiredness to complete exhaustion.
From high blood pressure to constipation.
From a little squirt to full-blown diarrhea.
From lack of sleep to lack of appetite.
From heart disease to ulcers, to stomach upsets (as is my case), to sleep deprivation and even strokes.

The list goes on and on…

In order for you to manage and control your reactions to stress, you must identify your body’s warning signs and signals. Knowing how stress impacts your body will help you build resistance against it, as it will help you recognize the signs and implement mechanisms to reduce the “imminent threat” feeling.

Stress can manifest in the form of rapid heartbeat, dizziness, body and muscle aches, sleeplessness, stomach upsets, rashes and other real annoying symptoms. If you pay close attention to your body’s warning signs and learn to anticipate the effect that it can have on your body and ability to react properly, you will slowly arm yourself with your very own set powerful coping tools of resistance against stress.

You already know that paying immediate attention to your body’s warning signs is paramount to controlling your reaction to stressors and negative stimuli, but what if I told you that your diet and daily routine play a huge role in the way your PTSD brain receives and processes stress? Incorporating a well-balanced diet with real nutritional value – yes, even when you don’t feel like eating – together with breathing and physical exercises, as well as meditation, visualization and mindfulness techniques to boost your concentration levels and positive attitude towards life will go a long way to improve your daily life.

PTSD stress and family.

When people with PTSD are under stress, they often have frequent disagreements with family members, friends, co-workers and loved ones.

If you have not learned to manage your stress, these quarrels can turn into serious overreactions over trivial matters, out of control arguments or even violent attacks. This can create its own vicious cycle on top of your PTSD, where your reactions to stress lead to personal conflict, which itself is stressful for you and those you share your life with.

Events like these lead many people with PTSD to shy off from social activities, change jobs frequently and put serious strains on personal and professional relationships.

Taking control of your stress before it controls you.

Continuous exposure to stress and failure to recognize warning signs could be the beginning of a hospital trip, many therapy sessions and/or medicines (or additional ones if you’re already taking some), or a lifetime of health issues.

Poor stress management negatively affects your concentration and performance in unimaginable ways.
Poor stress management can cause relationship problems.
Poor stress management can increase your chances of tripping, falling or having a car accident.
Poor stress management may make you grow more gray hairs, wrinkles and even acne.

When you are able to pinpoint, identify, and address the causes of your stress, you’ll be able to cope with it.

Be mindful that learning to manage and cope with stress does not translate into changing events that happened in your life, and for which you had no control. You cannot move on and properly mold the present chapter in your life when you keep re-reading the last one, which sucked if you have PTSD.

Learning to cope with stress won’t take the harrowing memories away, but it will give you the necessary tools to control the things you do have the ability to control, and not allow them to ruin your day or your life.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

Originally published: May 1, 2018
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