PTSD Emergency Survival Guide– 14 Things You Can Do Right Now to Calm Down
You might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There’s a good chance that you have PTSD. It’s a normal response to trauma. Having your personhood slowly destroyed, being in confusion, blaming yourself, having your reality messed with, being betrayed by the one you love, and not being understood and supported by friends are all traumas.
PTSD responses (fight, flight, freeze or appease) are automatic responses our body has when set off by triggers such as memory flashbacks, seeing your ex, comments from others that make you feel dismissed, or fear of the future. It isn’t something we can control- we literally get hijacked by our body– and that doesn’t make us a weak or bad person.
PTSD can take many forms: anxiety, fear, terror, brain fog, being in a stupor, having a hard time getting off the couch, no motivation, and irritability. Most of the symptoms are probably things that you have blamed yourself for in the past.
There are techniques you can learn to handle PTSD when it debilitates you.
You can heal!
The long term healing of PTSD is possible! I found that EMDR therapy was incredibly effective- it completely changed my life. I highly recommend it, but be sure to find an EMDR therapist who understands psychological abuse or who is willing to learn about it. Find someone with lots of experience and someone you feel comfortable with.
In the meantime, here are some techniques you can learn to cope with being triggered. If any of these don’t help, try another one. You get to do what is right for you.
The most important thing you can do is to have compassion on yourself. Don’t fight the feelings, accept them, and they will pass sooner. These feelings aren’t your fault and you aren’t doing anything wrong. They are the normal reaction to being abused.
You can stroke your cheek or heart- this creates oxytocin which is the hormone that helps you feel loved. Do something physical such as drinking tea or taking a warm bath.
This neuro-biological technique calms the brain by connecting the right and left sides. Cross your arms and place your hands on your upper arms. Alternate the movement of your hands and gently tap your upper arms, right then left. Do this for several minutes and try to concentrate on breathing slowly.
This position can calm the body. As you sit, hold your arms straight out in front of you, back of the hands together, fingers extended and thumbs down.
Put one hand over the other, so that palms are now touching. Interlace your fingers.
With hands clasped, bring them under to rest over your heart.
(If your right wrist was on top with hands clasped in front of you, the left wrist will be on top when they are resting on your chest.)
Cross your ankles so that the same side is on top.
If it is more comfortable to have the left wrist on top next to your chest, then put the left ankle over the right ankle.
Rest and breathe in this position.
This is a powerful technique to manage anxiety and help your brain heal. There’s an introductory video on this site:
This regulates your nervous system and calms your heartbeat. Try these different techniques to find the ones that help you the most:
Deep breathing– in for a count of six, then out for a count of six, for several minutes.
Box breathing- breathing in while counting to 4. Make it a deep, belly breath. Hold your Breath while counting to 2. Breathe out while counting to 6. Hold your Breath while counting to 2. Repeat for several minutes.
Calming breathing– In for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11 (if you find it too hard to breathe out 11, start off with 3/6 and work up to 7/11. The important thing here is to breathe out longer than you breathe in.) Repeat for several minutes.
Do an emotion dump where you just write out all your thoughts and feelings on paper and get it out of your head.
Spending time out in nature
Studies have shown that being in nature changes our body chemistry. Whenever you can, spend time in a place that is peaceful to you.
Engage the left brain
Count backwards from 100 by 7. This engages your left brain and reduces the right brain activity. The right brain controls your emotions which are freaking out right now.
Do an activity and be absolutely present in the moment paying attention to your every movement.
Say out loud 3 things that you see, 3 that you hear, 3 that you can touch, 3 that you smell.
Repeat encouraging thoughts to yourself like, “I can do this,” or “It’s okay,” or “Jesus will get me through this.” Soothing, comforting words really help!
Being loved by God
Imagine that God is holding you and receive his comforting love. You can put your head on his chest and listen to His heart beat. Imagine looking in His eyes and seeing His immense, accepting love for you.
If your PTSD is triggered by not being believed and going into self-doubt, read about covert abuse and get back to reality again. If reading about abuse makes it worse, then listen to calming music or do something that feels safe to you.