Coping Skills People With PTSD Can Use to Keep Calm

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You likely experience frequent and intense anxiety and stress if you have PTSD, but familiarizing yourself with the examples of coping skills that follow may prove beneficial. Fortunately, there are a number of healthy coping skills that work incredibly well in managing anxiety when it occurs. Diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, distraction, and behavioral activation are all coping strategies that can help you safely make it through intense experiences of anxiety and stress.

Putting Coping Skills to Use

However, these coping skills are not always easy to implement. Anxiety and stress often drive us to avoidance, and this avoidance often takes the forms of unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking. Although these avoidance behaviors might work incredibly well in the short-term, they often fail in the long-term, further increasing stress and anxiety. Healthy coping strategies, on the other hand, can be very difficult to implement in the short-term because they often force us to approach our distress to some extent.

Because healthy coping strategies can be difficult to implement, they often take some practice before they work very well. Therefore, when learning a new coping strategy, it is very important to put aside ample time to practice it and become familiar with how it works. For example, if your therapist instructs you in how to use diaphragmatic breathing for managing anxiety, make sure you put aside some time each day to practice the skill, regardless of whether you are experiencing anxiety or not. It may be helpful to keep track of your practice through a self-monitoring form. By practicing each day, you will gain familiarity with the coping skill and better cement it as a habit.

First Practice When Calm

When you are first learning a new coping skill, practice it at a time when you are not stressed out or experiencing anxiety. This might seem counter-intuitive as this is why you are learning the skill in the first place! But you want to first become accustomed to how the skill works before trying it out with anxiety. This is going to ensure success when you do eventually use it in response to anxiety or stress.

Think of it as though you are learning how to ride a bike -- when you first learned, you likely did not start out on a challenging course filled with rocky terrain and steep hills. Instead, you probably used training wheels and rode on a flat surface. You might have even had somewhere there in case you fell. You first needed to learn the basic skills of how to balance before you moved on to more challenging situations. This is the exact same approach we need to take in learning new coping skills.

Finally, in learning new coping skills, be patient. It can take some time to become familiar with a new coping skill. It is a process. With regular practice and patience, you can develop a healthy coping skill repertoire that can help you navigate even the most stressful of situations.

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