Do Positive People Deal Better with PTSD? Tips for Dealing With PTSD and Anxiety Disorders
When my PTSD was out of control, it was extremely difficult to keep my cool when people would tell me, “You just have to be more positive.” On the other hand, I am so glad they did so. –I just didn’t know it at the time.
I understand that PTSD is a very serious matter. I also understand that people don’t always know how a comment like “be more positive” can make someone with PTSD feel, or how difficult it can be to achieve after experiencing a trauma.
However, having a willingness to change my perspective, and consciously deciding to be more positive on a daily basis, did help me get through it. And that’s exactly what I want to share with you today.
What Is Positivity?
Positivity is “the practice of being or the tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
So yes, that annoying neighbor that’s always jogging on Sunday mornings and inviting you to her book club is a positive person, but I’m going to ask you to leave that image here because positivity is so much more than what pop culture has taught us.
Notice that positivity is a practice, so it’s not something you can learn in a twelve-step guide, but rather something you will be learning throughout the rest of your life by making conscious decisions, and being more aware of your feelings and surroundings.
Since this is a practice, it’s something you can learn over time. Everyone can practice positivity. –Even PTSD patients and those who have had trauma in their lives.
What Does Positivity Mean?
Many of you believe positivity is a concept born out of Positive Psychology, but it really goes back to the first Buddhist teachings.
Reality, as the complex quantity of things, people, context, and events that surround us can’t be changed. But the way we understand that reality and deal with it can, and such is the goal of positivity.
For PTSD patients, for example, everything outside their houses (and even inside them) is dangerous. Nobody understands what they are going through, only them. And there’s no cure, so there’s nothing else to do.
What happens when you acknowledge your disorder? You learn to embrace it, and once you do so, you start seeing yourself as a survivor and not a victim of the circumstances.
Positivity is a tool that helps you get there. It’s what gives you a break from all those intrusive negative thoughts you are so tired of.
Buddhism understands that a positive mind-state has a positive effect on our subjective experiences, hence Buddhists practice gratitude towards everything, including “bad experiences.”
And if you have read to this point and still don’t feel convinced because it’s “too much of a pseudo-science,” remember that this is a practice and that it is also used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
What is CBT and What Does Positivity Have to Do with It?
Essentially speaking, CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment that aims to help people identify and change negative and destructive thought patterns.
It’s a highly goal-oriented kind of therapy, which comes in handy for people with trauma, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, depression, addictions, and bipolar disorder.
It is also related to positivity because they both start with identifying negative thoughts and emotions, setting short-term goals, and constant monitoring of your emotions.
Both, positivity and CBT, are a gradual process. Do not expect things to change instantly. Changing your life’s perspective will take time and effort, but the reward is beyond words.
Why Is It So Difficult to Be Positive When You Have PTSD or Anxiety?
Imagine you are cooking your favorite meal. Even the simplest ones have specific ingredients and steps to follow, so the result should be more or less the same for everybody who follows the recipe, right?
But what happens when you couldn’t find the exact ingredient you needed? What happens when the gas in your kitchen doesn’t work, your phone is ringing madly, somebody just knocked on your door, and you can’t find your TV’s remote to lower the volume?
If you felt a little nervous thinking about that scenario, imagine how it would be to live in that scene forever. That’s how PTSD and anxiety patients feel.
For them, everything is “on fire” all the time. Even little changes or unexpected events can trigger their body’s alarm mode, and their immediate reaction is to run away to survive. So how exactly could someone say “just be positive” to them? Shouldn’t everyone already be aware of this?
Sorry, but no. Most people don’t understand how PTSD works, much less how it feels. If somebody has told you to be more positive, don’t get angry at them. Instead, take that advice as something valuable; as a sign that someone cares.
I know negativity will burst out of your mind on a daily basis. I know things right now are not okay for you, but they can be. But you have to do your own work.
What’s outside will not change in a day, and neither will you. If you take little steps towards being more conscious and aware of yourself, then your journey towards healing has begun.
How to Develop More Positivity in Your Life?
A few lines ago I said there’s no twelve-step guide to learn positivity, but there are a few daily practices that you can include in your routine to start changing your behaviors, thoughts, and patterns.
Please notice that positivity is not the cure for PTSD or any anxiety disorder, it’s a practice that will help you start healing and maintain that state during hard times.
Here you have some tips to develop positivity.
Be More Present
People who practice mindfulness feel calmer, report having fewer negative thoughts, and making better decisions in life. But it can’t be done unless you are present.
By “being present” I’m referring to knowing your emotions and what triggers them. It’s being aware of what you can change, and what is impossible.
It’s about recognizing yourself as a human being who makes mistakes, and who struggles on a daily basis. It’s being kinder to yourself, so you can be kinder to others.
You can begin to be more present by:
- Noticing what makes your negative thoughts pop-up in your mind
- Doing one thing at a time (no need to be checking your phone while watching a new movie, for example)
- Taking time for yourself (don’t be afraid to be alone with your thoughts, learn to decode and accept them)
Surprisingly, the hardest thing from the list is learning to be alone. If you need help with this matter, becoming more positive, or anything else relating to PTSD, contact me now at email@example.com. I am here for you!
Be More Grateful
This is another positive thing that people constantly reject without much consideration. It’s not “a hippie thing,” or a way to conform.
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation for what you have in your life, and even if you think you don’t have much, remember that you will always have more than somebody else out there. Being more grateful makes you appreciate more things in your life, so you can notice that not everything is lost and there’s something worth fighting for.
To practice gratitude you can:
- Wake up and say thank you for being alive, for having a roof on top of your head, and for whatever the day has prepared for you
- Whenever you get angry at silly things like having to wait 5 more minutes for the bus, think that at least the bus will pass, that you can pay for it, and that it’s better than walking to your destination
- Say “thank you” to others more often
- Try to give back as much as you get, and even if you don’t get anything
- Go back to bed and say thank you for having a bed, dinner, and even being able to rest
Who should you be thanking? Whoever or whatever you want. There’s no need to address a god or the universe as an entity. This is an exercise for you.
Start a Journal of Your Emotions
Journaling will help you discover which external situations are making you feel bad, which is the first step in finding solutions to those feelings.
A good way to start is by jotting down what you did during the day, and how you felt. Think of it as going to therapy, but only writing down what you felt and why.
If you have the time and motivation, you can make this journal a personal art project as well. Find ways to decorate it inside and outside the way you like it the most.
In the last few pages of the journal, create a list of things to be grateful for. Add something new every day. Take time to review your list from time to time, so you can see and believe that good things do happen to you.
Reduce Your Judgments
There’s this thing with social networks that gives people the false idea that it’s ok to be rude with those who are different from them.
And even outside of social media, we may have negative thoughts towards strangers that are simply false or discouraging. However, if you consciously try to avoid those thoughts and come up with something good about that stranger, your entire mindset will change too.
Have you ever looked at a woman, and judged her by how she was dressed? Most of us probably have; however, we need to consider that the person may have been perfectly happy with her clothing choice. Rather than placing judgement, we should consider that it may have been a meaningful gift, or maybe her resources are limited, and she’s doing the best she can with what she has.
Be Kinder to Yourself
I am going to share a very personal experience with you now: When I was able to return home after the military, I found myself feeling pretty dumb for trivial reasons like breaking a glass by accident, forgetting to take the trash out, or just coming back home from the store and finding out I forgot to get more orange juice.
You know what my first thought was? “Damn it, I’m so stupid.”
I would call myself stupid not less than 5 times a day for things that really weren’t such a big deal. I was starting to believe I really was stupid, and it didn’t stop until I started to practice self-awareness.
This is why it is so important to listen to yourself, and to spend time with yourself. When you begin to do this, especially while keeping a journal of your emotions, you’ll begin to notice how rude you are to yourself. Take notice, and make an effort to be kind to yourself.
To end this post, I would like you to know that if you need someone to talk to, I am here.
Positivity has shown great results in terms of life quality, higher energy levels, mental health improvement, better personal relationships, and a better work environment.
Having more positive thoughts is not rocket science, but it does take time. My final advice for you is to begin today. Choose to change your mindset for a better one.
And, to answer the questions that started this post: Yes! Positive people deal better with PTSD and other anxiety disorders because they have more control over what affects them, and can ignore what really doesn’t.
Questions or comments? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org