Reduce PTSD Symptoms through Lifestyle Changes

Successful treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often involves lifestyle changes. For many people with PTSD, taking steps to make thoughtful, healthy choices every day can help reduce symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.

Here are some recommendations from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Exercise Regularly

Talk to your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Moderate physical activity—30 minutes on most days of the week—can improve health and reduce stress. For people with PTSD, exercise can provide a much-needed break from difficult emotions and painful memories. Being physically active also can improve feelings of control in your life and your self-esteem.

Choose an activity you enjoy. Walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, lifting weights, and other forms of exercise are good choices. Exercising with a family member or friend, or joining an exercise class, may add to your enjoyment.

Avoid Alcohol & Drugs

Trauma survivors who experience PTSD symptoms may turn to alcohol and drugs to help them cope with painful feelings and memories. Although these substances may help for a short time, they impede PTSD treatment and recovery and make things worse over time.

If you have posttraumatic stress disorder and think you may have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, talk to your health care provider and consider joining a treatment program.

Develop Personal Relationships

Make an effort to renew relationships with people who are important to you and/or increase your contact with family members and friends. Loved ones can provide the emotional support you need as you continue with PTSD treatment and work to make important lifestyle changes.

Connect with other trauma survivors by joining a peer support group for people with PTSD. Contact with others who have had similar experiences can help you feel less isolated and help you build up trust in other people. Although it may be hard to take the first step, it's often helpful to take positive action and develop new friendships.

Volunteer in Your Community

While you are undergoing treatment for PTSD, it's important to feel that you are contributing to society and to your community—especially if you are unable to work. Find something that interests you. Opportunities in your area may include the following:

  • Adult reading programs
  • Athletic programs
  • Health services
  • Housing programs
  • Youth programs

Living in a high-crime area can be especially difficult for a person with PTSD. If you are not able to feel safe where you live—because of proven risks—it may be helpful to move to a safer area if possible. As you continue treatment for PTSD, it may then become easier to trust that you will be safe at home and in your community.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 02 Jun 2014

Last Modified: 02 Jun 2014