PTSD Awareness – how to support yourself and others, information and signsPosted: 13 Apr 2022
After over two years of a still ongoing global pandemic, the events in Ukraine are a lot to take in, to process and to understand.
Feeling overwhelmed is a perfectly normal response to what we are seeing unfold in Eastern Europe – be that on the ground, or from a far on television and via social media – as is experiencing a range of emotions, not least frustration, sadness, helplessness and anger.
Those prone to depression or who have experienced trauma may find themselves struggling more than they otherwise might in less fraught circumstances, and while something like PTSD can take many different forms, being aware of what to look out for, and, crucially, where to turn for help is important.
PTSD is estimated to affect around one in every three people who have experienced traumatic events, and, while it can develop immediately after the experience, it can also occur weeks, months and sometimes even years later. Again, PTSD can manifest in many different ways, and can present physical, mental and emotional difficulties – with everything from trouble sleeping to unwanted memories, nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks among the most common challenges.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is considered one of the most effective ways to treat PTSD, but there are a number of practical, shorter-term suggestions that can help you and/or those around you when suffering from an episode or flashback.
What you can do
It sounds simple, but focusing on your breathing is a great way of reducing stress and feelings of panic. Try taking a deep breath, counting to five, and exhaling.
Comfortable surroundings can help us relax. If that’s pouring yourself a hot drink, wrapping up in a duvet blanket, or running yourself a nice hot bath, being able to switch off from the real world and focus on yourself is key.
Allow yourself to be distracted
If possible, a long walk, run or other fitness activity is a great way of clearing the mind. If that’s not your thing, settling in with a good book, movie, television show or video game might work better. Johnny Chiodini’s Low Batteries series (published on Eurogamer back in 2015) takes a wholesome and thoughtful look at video games and mental health, with this episode specifically exploring how PTSD is handled in games.
If you’re simply looking for relaxing games to preoccupy your mind, this best relaxing games list from GamesRadar includes everything from Journey to Dreams, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Abzu, Stardew Valley and much more.
Stay connected by spending time with the people who give you a sense of security, calmness and happiness, or those who best understand what you are feeling. Whether this is face-to-face or remotely via social media, instant messaging or online video games isn’t important – making connections and maintaining a sense of togetherness is. It’s worth noting that while social media can be a great way to achieve connectedness, if media exposure is impacting your wellbeing, limiting your screen time is equally important.
What friends and family can do
Listening isn’t just about making time for someone, it’s also about allowing them to be upset without judgement or pressure. Simply be there for someone without question.
Identify warning signs and learn triggers
PTSD is so idiosyncratic, which makes understanding and identifying warning signs and learning triggers especially important – for both the person with PTSD and you. Are there conversations or surroundings that tend to trigger flashbacks? Being able to avoid these can be vital, and if that’s impossible, being able to prepare for them is just as important.
Respect personal space
While being able to listen is crucial, so too is respecting the space of someone who experiences PTSD. Always ask permission if you plan to touch the person, be sure not overcrowd and do what you can to avoid startling them.
Write a crisis plan
Crisis plans can help with all of the above. Mental health charity Mind has some great, easy to follow step-by-step crisis plan advice.