Escape PTSD With Travel?

Escape? Well… maybe. Not escape, exactly, but just like literal medicine helps lessen or alleviate physical symptoms of an illness, travel can help with mental health. Just being outdoors among the trees (a Japanese public health practice called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku) has been shown to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being. Mind and body are connected, so when one benefits the other does, too!

In this post, I want to share a how we use travel, spirituality, and mental healthcare to deal with our PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Both my husband and I have felt the words in the graphic below and we have begun to rise above them with the help of our new lifestyle.

if you could read my mind youd cry

Travel – I don’t have as many panic attacks, flashbacks, or nightmares when I’m traveling. It doesn’t cure me but it serves as a very effective grounding tool. I’m not in my own head when I’m hiking Mount Ranier, walking the streets of Venice, planning our next RV Campground stop in the US, or navigating the intricacies of a different culture or language. It’s mindfulness in action and I love it. It refreshes and recharges me in both an intellectual and spiritual way to see magnificent sights whether in the US or abroad. Spiritually I see the wonder of Jehovah God’s creation and it solidifies my faith that there is a source of life and love bigger than anything I can imagine. Intellectually it challenges me to understand and push myself to go outside my American CityGirl comfort zone.

travel

Spirituality – Many addiction programs ask you to work with the concept of a higher power. There is a strong correlation between addiction and trauma. So those who suffer from trauma based disorders like PTSD can also benefit from asking their higher power for help. I can attest to the fact that developing a relationship with my creator, living according to His standards, and communicating in prayer with him regularly helps me greatly with the ups and downs of life. To read more on how the Bible can help you if you are depressed, read this article for some encouraging scriptures.

The references below (1, 2) on spirituality and mental health affirm that “aspects of spirituality are associated with positive outcomes, even when trauma survivors develop psychiatric difficulties such as PTSD or depression. Research also indicates that healthy spirituality is often associated with lower levels of symptoms and clinical problems in some trauma populations. For example, anger, rage, and a desire for revenge following trauma may be tempered by forgiveness, spiritual beliefs, or spiritual practices.”

spirituality
Sunset over mountain range, Colorado, USA

Mental health maintenance – I have and use a medical team for my depression and anxiety. So does my husband, who suffers from combat-related PTSD. Just like you need treatment for diabetes or heart disease you need treatment for mental health disorders. Sometimes that means treatment in hospital. In general, a good daily routine of positive self-talk or affirmations, grounding/ mindfulness techniques, and using adaptive coping responses like journaling when needed. When the fear overtakes me, even before I realize I’m having an anxiety attack, I start grounding, try a coping response, and then take medicine if needed – in that order. Sometimes I still succumb to the overwhelming fear, sometimes I cry, sometimes I dissociate. But, as soon as I’m able to get myself grounded again I utilize the skills I’ve learned in treatment to keep moving forward.

Mental Health

 

 

REFERENCES

  1. Hood, R.W., Hill, P.C. & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, p. 179.
  2. VA National Center For PTSD. “Spirituality and Trauma”. (Website). https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/provider-type/community/fs-spirituality.asp
 love is greater than ptsd cbcg

Never Give Way To Doubt

When I read the text this morning I was struck by how close to home the message was. When facing issues of depression, anxiety, stress, or other illness symptoms I have been guilty of giving way to doubt. Cancelled service plans, avoiding text messages from friends who want to get together for an interchange of encouragement, lingering in the bed for hours after my chosen “wake-up” time of 8:30 AM… these are all things I have done because I felt like “I can’t”. But, I didn’t feel that way when I made the plans. This text brought the reason to light.

I made the plans for service because I felt like I could; I could face strangers in metropolitan witnessing or knock on a door not knowing who might be on the other side. Why? Becuase Jehovah expects me to. Because I dedicated my life to doing his will. Because it’s part of acting in concert with my prayers to ‘let Your kingdom come’.

But then… I give way to doubt (Matthew 14:31).

i-just-cant

Laying in bed at 11 PM the night before my 8 AM service plans I start to doubt that I can. I start to think that I can’t. I start to believe that I just can’t. Anxiety sets in. Panic begins. Fear takes over. So I send a text to cancel. I tell myself this is ok. That I have a medical reason. That my PTSD isn’t going to allow me to meet my commitment. That I am a failure. That I will try again tomorrow.

Honestly, there may be times when I just have to try again tomorrow.  However, if you read the paragraph beneath the scripture below and pay attention to the full transcript of the passage to the right, you might hone in on the same sentences I did when I read it:

“Peter… trusted that God’s power would support him…”

Perhaps, in addition to deep breathing, anxiety medication, and staying hidden when I have a panic attack, I can also remind myself (even repeat to myself) that Jesus and Jehovah will support me in all the ways I need support especially when I am giving my time in support of the Kingdom. I’ve spent time today in personal study of this span of scripture using the SOAP-JW method I modified and, let me tell you, it is just what I needed. I hope it encourages you as well.

If you’d like to get the daily text on your smart phone or tablet just go to your app store and download the free JW Library app. The screenshot below is of mine on an iPad mini.

 

img_1532

Breathing To Reduce Anxiety

BREATHE TO REDUCE ANXIETY

Imagine having an anxiety attack. Your heart races, palms sweat, stomach turns, and you begin to hyperventilate. In a moment of panic your breath can turn into an involuntary response.

Unlike your cardiovascular and digestive systems, your respiratory system can function both consciously and unconsciously. In a moment of panic you can change how you breath; you can change how your body reacts.

The next time you are in a moment of panic try to breath deeply. A great technique is the ‘massage breath’. This infographic explains this simple breath that can calm the body and mind in a moment of panic.

breathing spire

 

See whole article here: https://www.spire.io/blog/2015/10/13/breath-reduce-anxiety/#more-990

How to Help Those With Anxiety Disorders

From http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102012090 

“My heart often pounds really hard, and I break out in a cold sweat and find it difficult to catch my breath. I am overcome by feelings of dread, anxiety, and mental confusion.”—Isabella, a panic disorder sufferer in her forties.

ANXIETY can be described as “a feeling of nervousness or worry.” Have you, for example, ever felt nervous when confronted by an angry dog? What happens when the dog goes away? The nervousness and worry do too, don’t they? What, though, is an anxiety disorder?

When anxiety becomes chronic, when it continues even after there is no more need to feel anxious, anxiety can become a disorder. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older . . . in a given year.” Consider Isabella, quoted in the introduction. Unrelenting anxiety, such as she experiences, can have serious consequences for the sufferer.

Not only that, but the immediate family may also be affected adversely. There is good news, though. An NIMH publication states: “Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives.”

Family and friends can also help one who is suffering from an anxiety disorder. How?

How to Help

Be supportive: Monica, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, explains a difficulty she faces: “Most people find it hard to understand my emotional problems.”

As a result, anxiety disorder sufferers are often so afraid of being misunderstood that they try to hide their problem from others. This can result in feelings of guilt that worsen their emotional state. It is vitally important, therefore, for family and friends to be supportive.

Learn more about the disorder: This suggestion may be especially appropriate for those who deal closely with sufferers of anxiety disorders. This may include an immediate family member or a particularly close friend.

Keep comforting one another: The first-century missionary Paul urged friends in the Greek city of Thessalonica to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We can do this both by our words and our tone of voice. We need to show that we deeply care for our friends, and we need to avoid hurtful insinuations.

Consider the three professed friends of the man Job, after whom a book in the Bible is named. Those men, as you may remember, wrongly implied that Job was in some way covering over concealed sins and that his suffering was the result of his cover-up.

So, be sensitive to a sufferer’s feelings. Listen carefully. Try to view matters through the eyes of the one who is suffering, rather than through your own. Do not jump to conclusions while listening. Job’s professed friends did, and as a result, they were called “troublesome comforters.” They actually made him feel worse!—Job 16:2.

Remember to listen carefully to sufferers. Allow them to express freely how they feel. This may help you to understand better what they are going through. And think of the reward! You may be able to help sufferers enjoy a more full and meaningful life.

Identifying Types of Anxiety Disorders

Understanding anxiety disorders is vital, especially when the people involved are immediate family members or close friends. Consider five types of such disorders.

Panic Disorders Recall Isabella, mentioned in the introduction of our article. It is not only the attacks of anxiety that she finds disabling. “In between them, there is the dread that an attack is going to happen again,” she says. As a result, sufferers tend to avoid places where they have had an attack. Some become so restricted that they are housebound or are able to confront a feared situation only when accompanied by someone they trust. Isabella explained: “Merely being alone is enough to trigger an attack. Mother gives me security; I can’t stand it if she is not nearby.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder A person obsessed with germs or dirt may develop a compulsion to wash his hands over and over again. Regarding a similar compulsion, Renan says: “My mind is in constant turmoil as I go over and over past mistakes, reanalyzing them and looking at them from every possible angle.” The result is an obsession to confess past mistakes to others. Renan is in constant need of reassurance. But medication has been of help in controlling his obsession.*

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) In recent times this term has been used to describe a range of psychological symptoms people may experience following an extremely traumatic event that involved physical harm or the threat of such. PTSDsufferers may startle easily, be irritable, become emotionally numb, lose interest in things they once enjoyed, and have trouble feeling affection for others—especially those with whom they used to be close. Some become aggressive, even violent, and tend to avoid situations that remind them of the original traumatic incident.

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder This is a term used to identify people who are overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. Some sufferers have an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. They may worry for days or weeks before attending an event. Their fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, or other ordinary activities and makes it hard for them to make and keep friends.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Monica, mentioned earlier, suffers from this disorder. She goes through the day filled with “exaggerated worries,” even though there is little or nothing to provoke them. Sufferers tend to anticipate disaster and are overly concerned with health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Just the thought of getting through the day may produce anxiety.*

[Footnotes]

Awake! does not endorse any specific medical treatment.

The above material is based on a publication of the National Institute of Mental Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.