Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an intense anxiety disorder that affects every facet of one’s daily life. PTSD can be caused by a wide variety of situations, such as injury and the loss of a loved one. Combat veterans and others in high-stress fields are at an even higher risk for developing PTSD. Learning to navigate PTSD’s symptoms is crucial for adapting to a healthy daily lifestyle. Meditation and mindfulness can play an important role in combatting the effects of PTSD. These practices can be instrumental for veterans and anyone else suffering from PTSD to reclaim a sense of control over their thoughts, emotions, and daily routine.
What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a pervasive and intense form of anxiety and trauma birthed from personal traumatic experiences. For some, this can be surviving a life-threatening event or threat, such as a car accident, or any other type of life-altering experience. Sexual assault, threats to one’s safety, the loss of a loved one, and more can all fundamentally change one’s perspective of the world around them. These experiences can stay with an individual and can be the foundation on which one develops an unhealthier worldview.
Military veterans are at an even higher risk of developing PTSD. Being in an active warzone, leaving behind family while on tour, the loss of brothers and sisters in arms, and even intense training regimens can all fundamentally alter one’s mentality and perspective. These traumatic experiences are not just life-changing, but common for veterans of the armed forces. However, due to one’s duty as a member of the military, it is common to believe that one has to repress these feelings. Repression can negatively affect one’s mental health and possibly lead one to maladaptive coping strategies such as abuse of addictive substances.
Combatting PTSD is a difficult but necessary part of developing a healthier emotional state and battling the dangerous use of addictive substances. Meditation and mindfulness are key practices to embrace on a daily basis, helping those suffering from PTSD to regain a sense of control over their daily schedule, thoughts, and emotional responses.
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The Role of Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for combatting the effects of PTSD. Those suffering from PTSD can feel compelled to act on perceived threats and dangers, with an individual self-isolating or feeling the constant pull of anxiety, stress, and more. This hypervigilance is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, and taking time to meditate is just one way to challenge these often compulsive and invasive perspectives.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in tune with one’s own body and natural responses, creating a situation where an individual can recognize their emotions and compulsions for what they are. The practice provides an individual with the time and awareness to act in an informed manner rather than by impulse. An individual can regain a degree of agency over their bodies and minds by taking a moment to focus on their breathing, the awareness of the carpet or tile under their feet, the rate of their own heartbeat, or the touch of their fingertips to a pen. Being intensely focused on one’s internal feelings and sensations can provide the necessary time and perspective to recognize unhealthy and difficult thoughts. Recognizing one’s heartbeat and respiratory rate have increased can signal the prevalence of anxiety in one’s mind. An ability to track this prevalence can help an individual begin to regain control over one’s reality and responses.
Meditation itself is a powerful strategy for mindfulness practices, creating a safe and comfortable space in which one feels they can relax. The ability to remain calm, breathe, and spiritually situation oneself can help an individual challenge unhealthy thoughts while providing a safe space to focus wholly on one’s self.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices work to facilitate many goals for an individual, including challenging feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, urges to use addictive substances, and other impulsive responses. However, practicing meditation and mindfulness can also help an individual situate themselves in the present moment, processing flashbacks and traumatic memories and putting emotional distance between where and when the memories occurred and one’s current place and time. By situating oneself in the present moment, an individual can make more informed choices about how to respond to their own emotional stimuli.
An increase in mindful awareness can further help an individual create a picture of their situation based on a tangible reality rather than a threatening perspective. By being able to identify one’s surroundings, one can further create a more accurate perspective and challenge the anxieties brought about by trauma and PTSD.
Veterans are exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, and practicing meditation and mindfulness with the guidance of trauma-informed professionals is necessary to navigate traumatic thoughts and memories while creating a successful and healthy transition to a civilian lifestyle.
Meditation and mindfulness are essential practices if you or a loved one are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or battling the two simultaneously. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the unique need for effective, trauma-informed recovery plans, and our trained professional staff are prepared to help you cope with how trauma has impacted your life. From the unique traumas that have impacted you to our dedicated veteran programming for members of the armed forces, our approach allows us to create an effective, personalized plan for your path from detox and residential care to ongoing and fulfilling sobriety. We also offer an array of experiential programming to help you not just explore a sober life, but explore the transformational possibilities for your entire self in recovery. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (866) 390-5070.