PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a long-term condition which can occur following a physically and/or psychologically traumatic experience. For example, it is common for war veterans and survivors of assault or abuse to experience PTSD. This means that your body is constantly in a state of “fight or flight” hyperarousal which is usually difficult to switch off.
One of the ways that people with PTSD can calm their sympathetic nervous system is by practicing meditation. Mindfulness and meditating is a learned process, meaning that it can take some time to get used to it and for the practice to start having the desired effects. Here are some meditation tips for how to meditate if you have PTSD to successfully reduce your symptoms.
#1. Find a Safe Place to Meditate
Meditation involves making yourself vulnerable, which is often impossible in an environment where you don’t feel safe. Find somewhere quiet and secure where you can be alone and reassured that nobody is able to harm you there. This could be your bedroom or your living room with the door locked if you prefer. You don’t have to attend classes or group sessions.
#2. Address Your Feelings
PTSD and its causes and triggers are very complex. People who struggle with PTSD often do not want to consider their feelings too deeply because of the distress that this can cause. However, it is necessary to acknowledge how you feel in order to let go of these emotions while you meditate – whether this is anger, fear, guilt, shame, sadness, numbness, or blame.
#3. Allow Yourself to be Vulnerable
At first, opening up to meditation can be difficult if the lack of distractions leads to flashbacks. You must slowly overcome the conflict of being afraid of making yourself vulnerable to that harm again to achieve more control of your emotions and understand what happened to you. This is a necessary process for you to heal and to be able to reduce the effects of PTSD.
#4. Work with a Therapist
Meditating is different for people with PTSD, so it is important that you get professional advice on how to handle it from a counsellor, therapist, or a specialist such as a meditation guide with awareness of trauma counselling. They can also advise you on any other options available that could help with your recovery, such as how to make a CICA claim for PTSD.
#5. Practice Every Day
Once you know how to meditate, you need to keep following the process regularly in order to maintain its calming effects. The best advice for people with PTSD is to meditate for at least 20 minutes, twice a day. You can do this in the morning when you wake up and later before you go to sleep, or at any time that you need to relax if you are stressed about a situation.
#6. Implement Other Tools
Meditation is not a quick fix or a complete solution in itself. It should be just one of the tools in your toolbox for coping with PTSD. Other tools may be regular counselling appointments, taking prescribe medication, or developing a distracting hobby such as running or knitting that can also help you to relax. You can implement mindfulness outside of meditation, too.