10 strategies to cope with PTSD in everyday life

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes with a host of symptoms and challenges that show up regularly in everyday life.

Although professional medical treatment is the only way to properly treat PTSD, there are many strategies out there that can help you manage the daily challenges you might face, and improve your overall quality of life.

Understanding PTSD and its impact

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.

Traumatic events that lead to PTSD are often associated with injury, death, assault or violence and are usually extremely shocking or overwhelming.

PTSD symptoms can vary from person to person but often include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Other symptoms may include avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, feeling emotionally numb, and experiencing difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

To learn more, head to our blog: What is PTSD? An in-depth understanding

The impact of PTSD on daily life

Living with PTSD and the associated symptoms can have a significant impact on daily life.

It can affect relationships, work, and your overall well-being.

People living with PTSD may struggle to feel safe and can experience challenges in regulating their emotions and daily responsibilities.

However, with the right support and strategies, managing PTSD can become more manageable, allowing you to get back to leading a fulfilling life.

Educating yourself is one of the most powerful tools you have - learning about PTSD, the symptoms, your own triggers, signs of discomfort can be highly beneficial for you long-term.

Let's take a look at some strategies that you can try.

Strategies to cope with PTSD on a daily basis

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness encourages awareness and focus on the present moment, which can help ease the impact of PTSD symptoms like flashbacks and anxiety. There are many different mindfulness practices you can try, such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing, all of which can help you stay present and anchored in the here and now and regain control over your thoughts and emotions.

2. Stick to a routine and structure

Establishing a daily routine provides predictability and a sense of control, both of which can be grounding if you're living with PTSD. A structured day with set times for waking up, meals, work or activities, relaxation and going to bed can help reduce anxiety about the unexpected and provide a structure that can make you feel stable and safe.

3. Regular physical activity

Regular exercise, such as walking, swimming, or engaging in your favourite sport, is a powerful stress reducer. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, and can help break the cycle of negative thoughts associated with PTSD. It also helps improve your sleep and boosts overall well-being.

4. Build strong social connections

Building a strong support network of friends, family, and support groups creates a safety net of understanding and empathy. Sharing experiences with others who understand what you are going through, and hearing similar stories from others can reduce feelings of isolation and provide different perspectives and ideas on how to manage your PTSD.

5. Try cognitive behavioural techniques

Techniques like challenging negative thoughts (cognitive restructuring) and exposure therapy can significantly alter harmful thought patterns related to PTSD. They involve recognising and reframing irrational thoughts, and gradually exposing yourself to the memories of the traumatic event in a controlled, therapeutic setting, facilitated by a mental health professional.

6. Engage in creative expression

Engaging in creative activities like art, music, or writing offers a way to express yourself and process your emotions. These activities can provide a sense of accomplishment, serve as a distraction from negative or unwanted thoughts, and allow you to explore your feelings in a non-verbal way.

7. Get enough sleep

Good sleep hygiene, including a regular sleep schedule and a comfortable, restful sleeping environment, is crucial for mental health. Quality sleep helps in processing and coping with traumatic memories, reducing irritability, and improving concentration.

8. Set boundaries

Learning to set healthy boundaries in both your personal and professional life is important for stress management.

9. Practice grounding techniques

Techniques like the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This can help ground you during heightened anxiety or flashbacks. These techniques help you bring your focus back to the present moment, and away from your anxiety or flashbacks.

10. Have a crisis plan

Having a plan for crisis situations, such as knowing who to call or where to go when you feel out of control, can provide a sense of security and preparedness. It ensures that in moments of acute stress, there are predetermined steps you know to follow, reducing your panic and confusion.

When to seek professional help

While there are many strategies to help you cope with PTSD in everyday life, it's critical that you receive help from a mental health professional as soon as you start to experience PTSD symptoms, or don’t feel like yourself.

When you seek help from a mental health professional, they'll be able to provide you with the necessary support, guidance, and treatment, tailored specifically to you and your needs.

The best way to get started with accessing professional help is to first visit your GP, who can direct you to the best support from there.

If you need immediate support, don't hesitate to call a mental health helpline such as Lifeline on 13 11 14.

By implementing the strategies we've suggested and seeking support from mental health professionals, you'll be able to find ways that work for you to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Remember, recovery is a process, and it's okay to seek help and take the necessary steps towards better mental health and feeling safe.