A catch-22 of PTSD is that one can be so disabled by symptoms that it seems impossible to change the cycle. But it’s not impossible. The intrusive thoughts of PTSD begin a person’s descent into withdrawal, hypervigilance, and avoidance. But they can be stopped.
Stop the PTSD Cycle
- Find something purposeful to do. There are many needs in the world. The recent Oklahoma tornado and Hurricane Sandy are just a couple natural disasters from which people still need help. There are inner city projects, projects in Appalachia, projects that benefit children, and countless others all over the nation and the world. Find one and volunteer. Start off easy and then become a counselor, a teacher, or build, repair, and share your skills.
- Once you have purpose back in your life, approach each day with something new. Fill up your days with things to do. Play a sport. Ride a motorcycle. Ride a horse. Go hiking. Explore a new area. Play video games, especially brain games that challenge the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain we use for executive and intellectual thought. And if you find a brain game that’s difficult, play it a little every day until you improve.
- Find a project to focus on. Own it and give it purpose. Let this project fill your mind and memory to keep out intrusive thoughts.
- Aim for replacing intrusive thoughts with encouraging memories. Volunteer work can provide a sense of purpose. But enjoying the work will provide you with happy memories. Find replacements for negative memories. Travel with a friend. Get into the thick of disaster relief and create bonds with victims and other volunteers.
PTSD does not have to be permanent. Do not believe, “there is no cure.” There is a cure. But healing won’t happen unless we go into action.