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31 Small Ways To Make Living With PTSD A Little Easier

Genius tips from people who are going through it, too.

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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.

http://@heavy.blankets / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"I got it while in treatment and I never sleep without it. The pressure is so comforting and really helps me to stay in the moment."

moniques472fd93ed

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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."

easternoblast

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.

@cptsd_life / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"When my PTSD was at its worst, I did a lot of research about PTSD and my therapist was very open about my diagnosis and pointing out my symptoms. Being able to identify my symptoms when they were happening helped me feel in control. Acknowledging my PTSD gave it less power."

asunseri24

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.

katemraffety

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."

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7. Smell something to ground you during bad memories or flashbacks.

@britessentials / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"I have a handkerchief with olbas oil. Smelling that when I am having distressing memories or flashbacks helps to ground me back into the hear and now."

beckyg4644c9189

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."

beckyg4644c9189

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."

ericao46ea3f477

10. Use a float tank.

@clarityfloats / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"It's sensory deprivation and gives me a chance to curb sensory overload. Part of PTSD is hypervigilance, and having a safe place to let everything relax is important."

cogentmutation

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."

selinafluty

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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."

victoriaz4a8b03a00

13. Consider getting an animal companion, whether as an official support animal or otherwise.

ashleyh433fd417b

"I’ve had PTSD and severe GAD for about three years now. My biggest help is my service dog, Rolo. He interrupts me during times when a panic attack is starting, body blocks and alerts me to people coming up from behind me, performs deep pressure therapy and generally creates a barrier to keep me focused on him instead of everything else."

ashleyh433fd417b

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."

channingm466c61085

15. Research movies and TV shows ahead of time for possible triggers.

alisias3

16. Pamper yourself to remind yourself you're worthy and valuable.

@lushcosmetics / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"It seems silly, but practicing self-care really helped me. Much of my PTSD is coupled with feelings of guilt, feeling like I didn't deserve good things, or just overall feeling ashamed of myself. So, I try to combat those feelings by doing something for myself to reiterate that I'm worthy. I'll take a hot bubble bath, get my nails done, maybe splurge on some lipstick at Sephora."

alyssaelizabeth-annes

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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."

kelseyk4ddd0391a

18. Tell yourself "I am safe" when you need to be brought back to reality.

—Karine, Facebook

19. Have a place to regroup after therapy.

Jakub Kapusnak / Unsplash / Via unsplash.com

"When I was doing exposure therapy, I would leave the therapist's office and find myself either having blurry vision or nausea, on bad days I'd have both. Finding a safe place close to the therapist's office was a lifesaver. There is a Starbucks next to the office so I would walk out the door and just regroup there while I had my usual coffee order. I always go to this store anyways, so I felt safe there. I just focused on little things about my drink like the way the steam looked, the way little coffee bubbles on the side, and the way the paper cup felt in my hand, small details like that which helped me refocus and remind myself where I was."

rebeccas4ed437cd6

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."

addiesebastiennem

21. Get some plants to look after.

@fairyblooms / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"I got a couple low-maintenance plants, like aloe and succulents (big enough ones to be sturdy so they won't die because of small mistakes). On bad mental health days, basic self-care can seem overwhelming, but I know if I can take care of a plant, I can take care of myself."

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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."

lizzs43d974726

23. Get outside in nature.

ellyf2

"My favorite place to recuperate is the forest. I have trauma-induced PTSD and anxiety and being around trees has been a great supplement to therapy for me. I live in Phoenix, so I've had to work hard for the opportunities to hug a tree. But it's worth it!"

ellyf2

24. Get massages to help deal with body tension.

christined4e3768030

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."

a47837a2f4

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."

rshadursky

28. Look into adult paint-by-number kits or coloring books.

"Nothing has helped me calm down more than they do."

michellek4f1323c62

29. Have a fidget toy on hand.

@alygator.2196 / Instagram / Via instagram.com

"I have a Tangle, Jr. that I use whenever my PTSD starts acting up. It’s very effective to calm me down — the smoothness of the fidget toy keeps me from picking at my nails and the skin on my hands."

emilym40aa1340f

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."

ericao46ea3f477

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."

sarabethp3

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.

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