Some of the traumatic things you were exposed to probably got better over time, however sometimes there can be events you don't recover from as expected. Instead, you may feel stuck. You may even go on to develop PTSD. Being a combat vet you were trained to be ready for the unexpected. When the unexpected happened, your training kicked in and you did your job to the best of your ability often without even thinking. But what do you do when the unexpected injured you or one of your brothers? Or took their life? There's not really any good place to process this stuff while in combat- it's onto the next mission. While this makes sense to keep you focused, it takes it's toll over time. You stuff it down, and keep going because that is what you have to do.
Yes, you- the one who has trained hard and works tirelessly in a job most could never do. There is no question that you serve your community with everything you can. But where do you go after a tough run or shift? What happens then? First responders have a higher likelihood of developing PTSD. Don’t suffer alone, effective treatments are available. Read here about PTSD, first responders, and how you can take care of yourself so that you can keep helping others.
Here’s the thing: surviving a sexual assault, maybe a rape, or attempted rape, or other means of sexual violence increases your likelihood of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. What this means is those past experiences are negatively impacting your day-to-day life and preventing you from being able to live how you’d like to.
The good news? PTSD is treatable. Yes, you heard me right. No, we can’t delete the bad things that have happened. However, what we can do is control how much those past events impact your life now and your life in the future. There are effective treatments available for you to help you to find hope and get back to living life instead of avoiding it.
Happy holiday weekend! I hope you get some extra time to recharge and take care of yourself.
Today I challenge you to take a yoga class or even do yoga in the comfort of your own home.
Yoga has endless benefits for your mind and body. There are many types of yoga, so if you've had a bad experience with it don't rule it out! My first experience with yoga was, well, not great. I swore it off for a while, then was dragged to yoga weekly by a friend who swore by it. I had noticed changes in her such as her physical strength and flexibility, but also in how she felt about herself and how she managed stress. With her forcing me, er, encouraging me I found a class and an instructor who I loved and realized how awesome it is.
If you deal with anxiety, depression, or PTSD, yoga can be particularly helpful! Research has consistently demonstrated countless benefits for mental health, including stress reduction, improved mood, overall improvement in anxiety, and ability to focus. In addition, physical benefits include reduction in blood pressure, improved balance, strength, flexibility, physical endurance, and reduction in chronic pain conditions. This list can go on and on, but I challenge you to experience it for yourself.
It's no secret that professional athletes incorporate yoga into their training. Did you know that yoga is growing like crazy within the military and also with first responders?! Yes! Yoga provides a restoration and a resilience necessary for those exposed to high levels of stress.
For a local yoga studio, I suggest checking out Real Human Performance. If you're a new client, you can even try them out for free! They have a variety of different types of yoga classes as well as other services.
For online yoga, I love Yoga With Adriene. She has tons of videos uploaded that are easy to follow that cater to new and experienced yogis alike!
Enjoy! Take care-
Today I want you to try to be nice to yourself. Yes, really. We tend to hold ourselves to higher standards than we do everyone else. We also tend to be less forgiving of our own shortcomings, mistakes, and flaws. Have you ever lost sleep over something that already happened? Ruminating on what you could have said and done differently, where you screwed up, and then continuing to beat yourself up creates a lot of anxiety. Not only does this make us more anxious, but it changes how we think about ourselves. If the dialogue inside your mind is critical and negative, this can greatly impact your self-esteem, willingness to take risks, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Our thoughts impact how we feel and behave. Our minds are powerful and can be used to encourage or destroy our confidence and growth. But you know what? Thoughts are just that- thoughts. We create them and we have the power to change them, creating new habits of thinking that are self-enhancing instead of self-defeating.
For today, here are a couple of exercises to consider doing to encourage positive self-talk!
- Write down your top ten accomplishments. These can be big or small, it does not matter. Don't judge them, just write them.
- Review that list. What did it take from you to accomplish these things? Spend some time answering honestly and taking ownership of this.
- What are your favorite physical attributes? Write them down, taking time to appreciate yourself.
- What are your favorite personality traits about yourself? Why?
- Do something nice for yourself daily, without having to earn it.
- The next time you make a mistake, practice love and acceptance as you would if a loved one had made the same mistake. Many of my patients find it helpful to write out this narrative to be able to see it in black and white.
- Start your day out with a genuine compliment to yourself.
- Practice gratitude, see this post for more on that topic.
- When someone compliments you, respond by making eye contact and saying "thank you,” instead of dismissing it.
- Answer the question, "If I loved myself more, I would ____". And take one small step toward that today.
Remember above where I said that we can create new, positive habits? A habit is something we do over and over again, eventually not even having to think about it. Positive self-talk can feel weird at first, especially if you are used to tearing yourself down. It can also take effort and work to practice. However, like anything else, the more you practice the easier it gets and these new habits will be created.
If you find yourself struggling or not feeling yourself, it's natural to try to figure out what is going on. Sometimes these struggles show up after a trauma and you may be questioning if you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. I talk about PTSD as a disorder, here, but in this post I thought I'd include a brief self-screener as well.
The only way to know for sure if you do have PTSD is to meet with a mental health professional, preferably one with training in diagnostic evaluation and some familiarity with trauma-related problems and disorders. In the meantime, however, there are a few questions you can review on the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen. Please remember, the PC-PTSD-5 isn't a tool to diagnose PTSD, however a screen to see if PTSD may be likely.
Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:
a serious accident or fire
a physical or sexual assault or abuse
an earthquake or flood
seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
having a loved one die through homicide or suicide
Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.
If yes, please answer the questions below:
In the past month, have you ...
had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO
If you answer "yes" to at least three items, you should talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.
If you did answer "yes" to at least three of the items above, it's recommended that you be evaluated for PTSD. Based upon this assessment, you will then be able to discuss appropriate treatment options for you. If you didn't answer "yes" to at least three items, but you are still struggling with things related to past trauma, keep in mind trauma can affect you in many ways. Depression and anxiety are incredibly common (more common than PTSD) and are disruptive as well. A thorough assessment will help to flesh out where your symptoms fall and determine how you'd best be treated.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, here, if you are interested in a free 15-minute consult to see if coming in for further assessment is indicated. You don't have to keep suffering alone, help is available.
Hello and happy Sunday! I hope that this blog post finds you doing well.
Today I challenge you to get up and get OUT! Literally! Try going for a walk on your street, taking a walk in the woods, or just finding a spot outside to sit and watch what's going on around you. Being outdoors is good for us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It is shown to help with focus and concentration, decrease depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure and tension in the body, improve physical pain, and all-around make us feel better.
So what are you waiting for? Get outside! And to practice what I preach, my family and I are heading out for a long hike as part of our Self-Care Sunday. Enjoy!
One common concern I'm repeatedly hearing is that folks think treatment will somehow make things worse. PTSD is a disorder that worsens over time, and the more that you avoid dealing with it, the worse it becomes and the longer it lasts. With that said, the symptoms of avoidance can be the very symptoms maintaining your PTSD and preventing you from taking the leap into getting help you need.
Hello and happy Sunday!
I challenge you to go out and do a good deed today! It can be something for yourself, for another person, for the environment, for your pet, or society as a whole. It can be something big or little. Not only will you create positive change around you, but you'll feel great about yourself. Doing something for yourself or someone else is sure to boost your mood and create a positive ripple effect. Need some ideas? Here's a few:
take a walk
watch a favorite movie
treat yourself to your favorite coffee
for another person:
hold a door
let someone merge in front of you in traffic
pay for someone’s food behind you in line
write a thank-you card (and mail it)
sincerely compliment someone
make a meal for a neighbor
for the environment:
plant a tree
pick up litter
change light bulbs to more efficient ones
bike or take public transportation, even if it's just every once in a while
for your pet:
walk your dog
buy them a special treat at the pet store
spend extra time petting your dog or cat
adopt from a local animal rescue
for society as a whole:
donate to a local food pantry or homeless shelter
volunteer your time
donate school supplies
Whatever it is that you choose to do, my hope is that you notice the immediate benefits as you create positive change in your world. I'd love to hear examples of good deeds you've done!
If you have been feeling down, sad, or anxious, music can be very powerful in invoking new, positive emotions and can help you to feel better. This can be particularly helpful if dealing with PTSD symptoms and helping you to practice self-care.