Ways PTSD Sufferers Can Conquer Life Obstacles

Addressing barriers to living the life you want to live

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People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience high levels of stress and may notice more barriers to doing the things they want to do. For example, a person with PTSD may want to get a new job. But due to fears of new situations and people (as these may trigger memories, thoughts or emotions associated with a past traumatic event), a person with PTSD may decide to stay in a job they are unhappy with or stay unemployed. Given this, if you have PTSD, it is very important to learn ways of addressing barriers.

Types of Life Obstacles

Life obstacles or barriers can be divided into two categories - external and internal. External barriers are obstacles that exist outside of us. For example, having little money, lack of transportation, no job opportunities, lack of time or being involved in unhealthy relationships are all forms of external barriers. They are things in life that get in the way of us building the life we want and meeting our goals.

Internal barriers are those obstacles that exist between us. For those with PTSD, these are the most common types of barriers. They include anxiety, fear, unpleasant thoughts and memories, shame, sadness, hopelessness, or low motivation. You may notice such thoughts as, "I can't do this," "There is no point," Things will never change" and "If I do that, I will become triggered." Internal barriers are important to identify and address as they often feel overwhelming, insurmountable and can stop us in our tracks.

Ways to Overcome External Obstacles

  • Self-Monitoring: In addressing any obstacle, internal or external, it is important first to identify the barrier in question. This can be done through self-monitoring.
  • Break it Down: The best way to solve a problem is to break it down into smaller steps. For example, let's say that you want to start eating better to improve your health, but you notice that healthier food, such as fruits and vegetables, are much more expensive. The obstacle here is money. To overcome this obstacle you might create a budget to see where you can save money during the week. You might explore other places where you can get cheaper (but still healthy) food. You might also find ways to make some extra money during the week (for example, working overtime or taking on an additional shift every now and then).
  • Move Toward your Goal: With an external obstacle, you want to identify a number of small steps that you can take to make your way over the barrier and move closer to your goal. Some of the steps you take may produce immediate results; however, some barriers are larger and may take more time, such as going back to school and getting a degree.

    Ways to Overcome Internal Obstacles

    • Get Control: Even though emotions and thoughts can be very frightening, unpleasant and uncomfortable, you are the one who is still in control of your behavior. Therefore, the best way to overcome an internal barrier is to move forward regardless of what you are experiencing on the inside. The more you can do this, the less those emotions and thoughts will feel like barriers.
    • Manage Emotions: As you work toward overcoming internal barriers, try to start practicing healthy ways of managing your emotions and thoughts. Certain coping strategies can be used to help increase your tolerance for certain emotions and thoughts.
    • Take Action: It is important to start moving toward your goals instead of waiting for the emotions and thoughts to go away first. It can take some time for our emotions and thoughts to change. However, we always have control over our behaviors, and most people notice that their emotions and thoughts change quicker if they take action first.
    • Experience Emotions: Addressing internal barriers requires a willingness to experience your emotions and thoughts; the more you do so, the easier it will become. In addressing internal barriers, you are essentially making a choice to let your goals and values drive your behaviors.

      Building the Life You Want to Live

      The goal is not how do we prevent obstacles, but rather, how we can overcome them. Spend some time thinking about what external and internal barriers you face in your life. Pay attention to how they interfere with you building the life you want to live. There is no better day than today to start identifying ways you can overcome these barriers.

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