Managing PTSD: 5 Tips and Coping Strategies

Updated on January 10, 2024

Post-traumatic stress disorder afflicts a large portion of Americans. It often causes intrusive thoughts and flashbacks to arise with no warning and can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Although it can be helpful to avoid PTSD triggers, this isn’t always possible. And it isn’t always possible to avoid symptoms, either. That’s why it’s helpful to have a few coping mechanisms at your disposal. Here are some tips to try.

1. Window of Tolerance Technique

If you’re looking for help for PTSD in San Diego then the window of tolerance technique should be on your list of coping strategies. This is a method of identifying and talking about your mental state at the moment. When you’re inside your window, you’re doing well and functioning effectively. When you’re outside your window, you’re triggered and experiencing PTSD symptoms. Most sufferers start with a small window and are easily triggered, but as more coping techniques are learned, the window expands. The more your window expands the better you are at staying present and not overwhelmed by your emotions. You can think and feel simultaneously, and stay in your window or find your way back to your window when you find yourself outside of it.

2. Breathe

Bringing yourself back to the here and now isn’t always easy when it feels like your symptoms are sucking the life out of you. But this is a coping strategy that you will always have at your disposal. The trick to concentrating on your breath is to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You want your exhale to be longer than your inhale. If you find this hard to do, try inhaling for four seconds, holding the inhale for two seconds, and exhaling for six to eight seconds. This deep and rhythmic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system to help you calm yourself, think more clearly, and come back into the present moment.

3. Laugh

The old saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” As it turns out, there really is some truth to the saying, and laughter is now being used as a therapeutic technique. When you laugh, the body releases certain hormones, giving your immune system a boost and performing a little brain rewiring. When your PTSD starts to flare, try laughter. Maybe there’s a funny video you like to watch, a joke you enjoy hearing, or a person that you often find joy and laughter with. This will be a great help when coping with PTSD.

4. Think Positively

Bring to mind something positive. It could be something as simple as a beautiful flower, a funny joke, or a compliment you received. Whatever positive thought you bring to mind, you’ll need to focus on it and its details for 12 seconds. As you concentrate on the positive thought, feel your breath as it enters and exits your body. Take note of how your body is feeling and how your emotions are flowing. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson says all you need is 12 seconds to create new neural connections. This exercise can help you replace stress-based thinking and build healthier stress responses.

5. Focus on Your Five Senses

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and burdened with PTSD symptoms it can be a great help to ground yourself in the present moment by focusing on your five senses. Take a moment to notice five things in each of your five senses. Focus on the things that you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. After noticing five of each, notice four things of each. After four, notice three. Then two, and then one. Be specific about the items, concentrating on each item’s traits to help get you out of your head.

It’s a good idea to practice these techniques when you’re not triggered so that it won’t seem so foreign when you are triggered. Becoming self-aware and being able to more safely manage stress responses takes patience and practice. Permit yourself to work through your thoughts and emotions. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.