We can all benefit from healthy coping skills. And for people dealing with mental health issues like anxiety attacks and PTSD symptoms, it can be especially key to find ways to handle strong emotions like stress and fear. Here are 7 self-help practices worth trying.
- Make some art
When was the last time you drew a picture or painted—for fun? Art can be a helpful way to express your emotions, and it can help you deal with emotions, too. Research on art for PTSD symptoms has focused on art therapy—a practice in which a trained therapist guides a patient through different expressive exercises (Schouten, 2016). Yet many people find practicing any kind of art to be healing.
There are lots of ways to stretch your creative muscles. No talent is required! One way to do it: Pick a song lyric you love, and use it as a prompt to create a piece of art. You can use crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, or even Play-doh.
Not ready for quite so much open-ended expression? Coloring books have also been shown to help calm anxiety in people with PTSD symptoms (Rodak, 2018).
- Pet a dog
You may have heard of therapy dogs. A new law passed in 2021 created a VA pilot program to provide dog training therapy to veterans with PTSD.
But while a trained therapy dog can be hard to come by, many types of pets can have a calming effect on their owners. Interacting with animals can decrease stress hormones, reduce loneliness, and increase feelings of social support—all which may benefit people who experience panic attacks or PTSD symptoms.
If you think some animal support could do you good, but aren’t able to adopt a pet of your own, consider volunteering at a shelter. Or, offer to walk or play fetch with a friend’s dog. Your friend—and their dog—will likely be grateful.
- Care for a plant
There are lots of health benefits to gardening (Thompson, 2018). Simply being in nature—or even looking at plants indoors—can help people to de-stress. Maintaining a garden can provide a healthy dose of physical activity, too. There’s even a specialized form of therapy involving plants. Called horticulture therapy, it combines traditional elements of talk therapy and working with plants.
You don’t have to have a backyard to experiment with plants. Caring for even one plant—indoors or out—can be a soothing, meditative practice. Community gardens are another place people without yards can get their hands dirty.
- Turn on some music
When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or fearful, it can be hard to break free. For some people, music can help. Turning on a favorite song or type of music may help you shift gears and move to a happier—or at least less stressful—headspace.
Want to turn it up a notch? Try making music, instead of just listening to it. Six weeks of guitar lessons led to improvements in symptoms of PTSD and depression, one experiment found.
- Write in a journal
Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be helpful for both physical and mental health. Called therapeutic journaling, this is more than just writing what happened in your day. Rather, it’s writing about both what happened and what emotions it stirred up.
A journal can provide a safe outlet to process experiences, including ones that may have been upsetting or traumatic. To do it, spend 15 to 20 minutes at a time writing. Then do the same thing four days in a row.
- Distract yourself with a jigsaw puzzle
While learning to express intense emotions is one important coping skill, sometimes you just need to take your mind off them. That’s where a focused activity like puzzling comes in. Many people, including Reddit users in this thread, swear by the meditative practice of doing jigsaw puzzles to give their brain a break.
While puzzles (especially big ones) can be pricey, they’re easy to find at thrift stores. They can often be checked out from a public library as well.
- Call a friend
You may have a lot of reasons for avoiding people. But here’s the thing: Those people may hold a key to helping you feel better. Feeling lonely can actually make PTSD symptoms worse. Having people who you can confide in and share with can make all the difference.
To reconnect with people you’ve been avoiding, consider a small step. Start with someone in your life you think is most likely to be accepting and non-critical. Could you send a text message? Give them a call?
- Remember that you’re worth it
Don’t settle for PTSD symptoms that hold you back from the life you want. Freespira is a treatment for panic attacks and PTSD symptoms that works in just 28 days with no side effects. There are no appointments to go to and no medications to take.
Freespira works by retraining your breathing patterns over four weeks using an at-home system. And it works: In
Want to take the next step to find out what Freespira can do for you? Talk to one of our advisors to learn more.
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