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20 Unexpected Coping Techniques for PTSD

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There are a lot of common coping techniques thrown around in the mental health space. Journaling, exercising, listening to music, talking to a friend… and those are all great. Hopefully one or all of them work well for you. But sometimes, they don’t, and people are left to fend for themselves, maybe even creating a few unique or creative coping techniques in the process.

• What is PTSD?

We wanted to find some new coping mechanisms for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), so we asked the Mighty’s mental health community to tell us one unexpected way they manage their PTSD. We hope some of these ideas are helpful to you.


Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “If I’m in public and I have an episode, I look at another person, stranger or not, and imagine a story about them. I give them a whole story in my head, whether it’s a whole life story or just what happened that day. If I’m at home and my husband is around, I let him distract me with videos, movies or shows. If I’m at home alone, I turn on a video game. Video games bring into a world that isn’t my own.” — Tasha T.

2. “Backpacking and hiking solo in the mountains. Flashbacks and rage abate quite quickly while wondering if you’ll be eaten by a mountain lion or if a bear is gonna sniff my face again while I sleep.” — Saina K.

3. “Doing my makeup. If I do that I’m ready for the day. Gives me incentive to do something.” -Courtney G.

4. “Bullet journals. I keep track of my moods, sleeping habits, eating habits, anything and everything. That way I know when to increase my sleep or yoga by following my mood chart.” — Mika D.

5. “I read to fill the void and help me cope. Escaping to fantasy worlds helps me deal with the ‘real’ world around me!” — Morissa S.

6. Since childhood, due to abuse, I have had very vivid, horrific nightmares where I am often brutally assaulted or killed. Nothing or no one has helped. I recently got a dog and decided to try him as a bed dog. My other dogs don’t like sleeping with me because of my insomnia and these dreams. The third night this new dog is with me, I have a nightmare that jolts me awake, but it wasn’t as brutal. What’s different? My dog is lying across my chest. I didn’t even open my eyes, but I could feel him there. As my breathing started to slow, and I calmed down, he got off of my chest, and slept with his head on my hip. I’ve only had him six weeks now, and although I still have the nightmares, they aren’t as violent and I barely remember them. Who rescued who?” — Lisa H.

7. “My job. I’ve had the same job for almost four years and it’s where I go to take my mind off things. A lot of my coworkers have become family to me and when I’m at work I feel like I have a purpose. My mind is just focused on my job and nothing else and it feels nice to escape for forty hours a week.” — Emily H.

8. “I decided to start following my passions. I started a course last year and finished it this year and am now an student support officer. It not only gives me something else to focus on and provides me with an wild amount of accomplishment and gratitude, but also gives me the chance to make a difference in young peoples’ lives. It has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done and it also helped me understand my PTSD. Helping others heals me.” — Stacey F.

9. “Painting stories. I have no artistic talent whatsoever and cannot draw animals or people properly, but I paint my feelings. My emotions, my memories. It’s surprising to me how emotions can be seen when I paint. Dark, firey colors represent my pain, fear and anger. Bright and vivid colors often represent being in a dark place. As if my painting is a timeline, I may still be in the dark place but I hope that someday it will all be behind me”  — Amanda W.

10. “I touch the walls around me or the furniture I’m near. I focus on feeling the textures, and shutting everything else out. It helps ground me and keep me in the present, especially during flashbacks.” — Bridget C.


11. “I use a twirling baton. The repetitive movement is predictable, soothing and grounding. I have to close my eyes and let the episode wash over me while I focus on the movement of the baton between my fingers. Another thing I do is snap my fingers to refocus my senses to that sound — again, using repetition.” — Tania K.

12. “I have this big jar and I decorated it. On different colored paper, I write down things that I think are awesome and things I would love to learn. When I finish one , I draw another one and start on that one. I also have another jar which I designed as well, where I write down things I’m grateful for and things that I have accomplished that make me feel proud.” — Lilac W.

13. “At one point I used warhead candies. I like sour things, but warheads are too sour for me. So when I would feel myself start to have an episode, (usually dissociative) I’d pop a warhead in my mouth to help keep me present in the moment and stop the disassociation.” — Janina J.

14. “I look for songs my friends will like, on YouTube or Spotify, and send them. Sometimes it takes forever to find the right song and sometimes my friends message right back that it was a great choice. They don’t know that I am stuck in a nightmare, but just that little bit of contact can bring me back to now.” — Allison T.

15. “Plant a flower seed in the garden for bad thoughts. It’s a reminder that beautiful things can still grow even when the sun isn’t shining.” — Sharon C.

16. “Watching soothing gifs. There’s one of steam coming off of a cup of coffee that always helps. There’s also one of a kitten with a body of billowing smoke.” — Liz B.

17. “Knitting. Focusing on a detailed technique like that takes me away from the mind numbing lock down it can get into.” — Alexa K.

18. “Going for a drive somewhere beautiful that I’ve never been before to make new memories and take my mind off the past.” — Melanie L.

19. “Music with a lot of piano and soft sounds.” –Diego N.

20. “Pacing and rocking to self soothe.” — Jennifer C.

What would you add?

20 Unexpected Coping Techniques for PTSD
Originally published: July 24, 2017
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