We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community living with post-traumatic stress disorder to tell us how they take care of themselves outside of professional treatment.
Here are their best tips for self-soothing, self-care, and coping day-to-day with PTSD.
Remember: These aren't meant to be medical recommendations, but they're tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
1. Wrap yourself up in a soothing weighted blanket.
2. Assemble a support team and prep them on what's helpful.
"I have a group of five people that I fall back on when I'm having bad days or panic attacks. The group knows the full story of what happened and have willingly volunteered to help me out. It's nice to know that even if person one and person two are busy, I still have people three through five left to help me out in tough situations."
3. Or share with at least one person what you've been through.
"I live with complex PTSD, meaning that there wasn't one traumatic event in my life or a stark 'before' and 'after.' I was in therapy and on medication, and was really good at self-soothing through my flashbacks. But I was also determined to do it all by myself. It was only when I finally told my best friend about some of the things in my childhood that still affected me to this day, and about the fact that I deal with C-PTSD, a weight was lifted off me."
—Anonymous, via email
4. Read up on PTSD and educate yourself so you feel more in control.
5. Trace your hand on a piece of paper to remind yourself that "yes, you're here" during a flashback or whenever you feel out of control.
6. Take up journaling, and try writing in different journals depending on what you need.
"I keep two journals. One is for letting out whatever is on my mind, but the other is for positive thoughts only (quotes I like, encouragement from friends, Bible verses since I'm religious, etc.). The first one helps me process what I've been through and the difficulties of living with my disorder, and the second one gives me concrete reminders of my progress and of the fact that I'm ultimately bigger than my disorder."
7. Smell something to ground you during bad memories or flashbacks.
8. Reorient yourself back to the present time by making observations such as "My name is X, the date is X, I am in the living room, and I can see X, Y, and Z."
9. Identify your triggers and speak up about them.
"When I started dating again after my trauma, it was extremely difficult for me to have even a simple date without something triggering me. When I began communicating my triggers to my boyfriend, it brought us closer together, built trust, and helped me process through them."
10. Use a float tank.
11. Watch horror movies.
"I know it's a bit unconventional, but horror movies have helped my PTSD a lot, somehow. Not ones focused on gore and awful human beings, but things like haunted houses and demons and stuff. I can be scared in a controlled environment. I don't have to watch it if it's too scary, and as soon as the movie is done, I don't have to deal with the consequences of it. They also help me reconnect with my body, since I disassociate a lot."
12. Maintain a balance between reaching out to people when you're triggered and knowing how to self-soothe.
"It's great when people you trust are able to help calm you down, but if they aren't available or are dealing with their own struggles, their responses or lack thereof can make things worse. So for me it's important to try to reach out, but have a backup plan of music or a calm activity to relax yourself when you get triggered."
13. Consider getting an animal companion, whether as an official support animal or otherwise.
14. In case you're still grappling with it, consider that admitting to yourself that you have PTSD could be very freeing.
"One of the hardest things for me to do was to actually admit and come to terms with having PTSD. Once I did, it was like a load off and from there I was able to get the help I needed."
15. Research movies and TV shows ahead of time for possible triggers.
16. Pamper yourself to remind yourself you're worthy and valuable.
17. Stick to a health routine, including avoiding drinking or mind-altering substances.
"To cope with my PTSD, I have developed a pretty solid routine that incorporates healthy eating and exercise. I avoid alcohol and other mind- or mood-altering substances. I try to stay on a regular sleep cycle."
19. Have a place to regroup after therapy.
20. Always carry headphones with you so you have a distraction available when you need it.
"There are some popular old songs that trigger me, and I never know when they're going to play when I'm out shopping or at a restaurant. As soon as they start playing, I plug my headphones into my phone and play music as loudly as I need to in order to not be able to hear the triggering song. If someone is with me, I ask them to tell me when the song ends. If not, I just listen to one or two of my songs and then check if the triggering song is over."
21. Get some plants to look after.
22. Look into a therapist who practices eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which many who experience PTSD have found effective.
"It helped me to not feel like I'm reliving my traumas everyday. My triggers were so bad that it would scare me to walk past men on campus, but now I am able to lead a mostly trigger-free life. It's not a cure-all, I still have many difficult side effects of PTSD, but the traumatic memories have abated."
23. Get outside in nature.
24. Get massages to help deal with body tension.
25. Share your story however you feel safe so you can find other people who share your same experience.
"Knowing, as horrible as it is, that I’m not alone in my experiences really does help. After people have told me about their experiences they’ve said that it felt so good to finally let it out. That’s what I love. Being open and honest has really helped me heal and spread awareness about not victim-blaming and not judging people because you never know what they’ve been though."
26. If your trauma involves a person, write them a letter and burn it.
27. Learn to deep breathe, both when you're calm and when you're anxious.
"I practiced the deep breathing a lot when I was feeling calm so it would be second nature when I had a panic attack. It's so helpful because I can't always predict what will trigger my panic attacks or anxiety, but I have this great technique to calm me down regardless."
28. Look into adult paint-by-number kits or coloring books.
"Nothing has helped me calm down more than they do."
29. Have a fidget toy on hand.
30. Remember it's okay not to be okay sometimes.
"Love yourself through the process, even on the bad days. Remember that anxiety from PTSD or complex PTSD is caused because your brain wiring was literally changed. Be gentle with yourself and practice lots of self-care."
31. And finally, know that you are not weak for seeking help.
"I thought I could fight through the symptoms — the fear, the flashbacks, the crippling anxiety attacks — but they only grew worse. There are psychologists who study for years, learning how to best combat mental disorders. Find a highly recommended psychologist and trust them. Be strong. Seek help."
Submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
To learn more about PTSD, check out the resources at the National Institute of Mental Health here.
And if you need to talk to someone immediately, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Suicide helplines outside the US can be found here.