Mindfulness And PTSD
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation. It is a way for our brains to protect the body, while still retaining the ability to somewhat function in everyday life.
Under non-trauma circumstances, a person’s stress hormone levels will temporary rise in reaction to a threat. When the threat has passed, these levels will return back to normal. What a great machine our body is!
For people with PTSD, the system still works the way it is meant to work. The person encounters a threatening situation, stress levels rise and… take much longer to return back to their baseline. In addition, because now the fight-or-flight response is continuously operating in the background, the stress hormone levels spike in response to even very mildly stressful situations.
These constant elevated levels of stress hormones contribute to an array of different factors: memory and attention problems, difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable and easily agitated digestive issues and trouble sleeping. If you think about why this is happening; when your body is in a constant state of stress, your brain is more preoccupied with keeping you alive than having you solve mathematical equations or finish reading a Harry Potter book. Makes sense right?
Except now, in the case of PTSD, you are on high alert.
Being traumatized means that you are, subconsciously, organizing your life as if the trauma is still happening. Sights and sounds in daily life trigger you to have flashbacks about the trauma, your emotions are hypervigilant and in constant alertness to any kind of danger, and your energy is focused on silencing the inner chaos.
And this is exactly why practicing mindfulness is so important!
I’m not talking about meditating for hours on end. Mindfulness is so much more than just that. In case you are not too familiar with mindfulness, it is the practice of being in the here-and-now, without judgement towards yourself or others, and having a curiosity towards the things around you.
Visualization is a form of mindfulness. This teaches your brain to calm down, relax, and acts as a reset button. Day dreaming is a form of visualization. Picture yourself on your favourite vacation, whether that is on the beach in Cayos Coco, or on a trail walking across Europe. Use visualization to envision what happiness feels like, or what your perfect day looks like, or even what you will be cooking for dinner.
Five minutes, that is all it takes.