Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects every facet of a person’s day-to-day life, from how one constructs routines to how one sleeps at night. For veterans of the armed forces, PTSD can be a common and debilitating part of life. 

PTSD affects 11 to 30% of veterans, and the likelihood of developing PTSD may be exacerbated by the location and length of one’s deployment. Aspects of being on active duty can carry over into one’s civilian life and can continue to impact a veteran’s mental health long after they have left a warzone. 

Finding effective ways to overcome the debilitating symptoms of PTSD is crucial for navigating a healthy and rewarding civilian life. Embracing the spiritual, grounding, and healing effects of nature can provide the basis on which to build a peaceful lifestyle. 

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD affects veterans in a variety of ways, and no two experiences with PTSD will be the same. Identifying how PTSD affects each veteran is the first step toward creating an effective recovery program. 

Some of the more common symptoms of PTSD include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Intrusive memories or nightmares
  • Intense reactions to stimuli
  • Avoidance
  • Self-isolation
  • Pessimistic perspective or worldview
  • Pervasive feelings of danger or unease
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

PTSD can also cause an individual to attempt to self-medicate these symptoms, commonly in the form of addictive substances such as alcohol, opioids, heroin, or prescription sedatives. 

While these substances may help veterans placate their minds for a brief moment, they ultimately cause further stress and additional difficult symptoms. The veteran may then increase their use of addictive substances to dull the negative effects of their substance use, thus creating an increasingly dangerous cycle of abuse and addiction. 

The Benefits of Embracing Nature

PTSD can create feelings of constantly being on guard and never being able to relax or feel at ease in one’s environment. Sometimes, PTSD can even give one the sensation of feeling unwelcome in one’s own body. 

While each veteran’s journey through trauma recovery will be unique, embracing a natural, spiritual component of treatment can be a great boon for those seeking a newfound sense of peace or belonging. Nature is a powerful resource, and engaging in centers for alcohol and drug treatment that actively embrace and champion the healing potential of the natural world can challenge unhealthy perspectives while transforming one’s mindset. 

Grounding Yourself in Nature

PTSD can be intense, and flashbacks, anxiety, and depression make it incredibly difficult to situate oneself physically and mentally in the present moment or environment. Nature can be a great way to begin to ground oneself amidst these trying symptoms. 

Nature can be a catalyst for practicing effective mindfulness strategies and allowing oneself to feel the wind, earth, and spirit of the natural world. Being outdoors can empower an individual to emotionally detach from the impacts of PTSD and begin situating oneself in a present moment of peace and comfort. 

Combatting Feelings of Entrapment

From feeling trapped in the memories of past experiences to feeling as if one is stunted in one’s personal goals, nature can help those who have PTSD deconstruct these emotional barriers and break through this pervasive “stuck” feeling. Getting outside and experiencing the breadth of the natural world is instrumental in helping an individual feel less limited by physical or emotional barriers and reinforcing a positive change in perspective while promoting a healthier mental state.

Improving Physical Health

One’s physical and mental health are intimately linked, and being out in nature promotes a healthier physical routine. From hiking to taking a walk and getting the body moving, daily excursions into nature can improve one’s physical and mental health while establishing a healthy daily routine and active lifestyle

Getting Away From Stressors 

Stresses and triggers can be challenging for those who have PTSD to navigate. However, getting out in nature and detaching from the regular stresses of the day can allow those who have PTSD truly clear their mind and take a few moments devoid of these unnecessary, detrimental stressors. Disconnecting and embracing newfound mental freedom is instrumental in turning one’s mind into a frame of healing. 

Getting Spiritually Connected

The spiritual side of nature can be incredibly powerful as it can help one feel connected to something larger and grander. This kind of spiritual awareness can help veterans embrace the truly transformative healing powers of nature. Watching the sun rise and set or dipping one’s toes into a vast ocean are all therapeutic exercises in perspective that can help those who have PTSD become more connected to the natural world and its spiritual potential. Promoting a mindset based on spiritual healing can open new perspectives and avenues to a transformative recovery experience in nature.

Veterans coping with the effects of PTSD face daily battles, but we at Hawaii Island Recovery can help you. We understand the unique healing potential of nature and are prepared to incorporate a natural element into your daily life. We utilize a unique blend of proven therapeutic approaches, a dedicated veteran-specific program, and the nature and energy of the beautiful big island of Hawaii to create a special healing experience. Your time in our treatment programs in Hawaii can be further personalized to fit your needs and goals. Between individual and group therapy, residential treatment, and continued outpatient care, we strive to help veterans by providing a constant resource and support wherever you are in your recovery journey. For more information on how we can help you face your battles with PTSD or substance abuse, or to discuss the options available to you, call (866) 390-5070.