Follow-through and healing after posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms arrive is tough as illustrated by a client who recently told me about his plans to begin learning transcendental meditation to reduce his anxiety and he blurted in exasperation, “I know what I have to do to heal! The problem is that even though I know what to do I can’t seem to get myself to do it.“
This is a common refrain in recovery (and one I often said myself). Knowing what to do but not following through on doing it is one of the biggest problems in how to heal after PTSD symptoms settle in.
Follow-Through and How To Heal After PTSD
From early childhood (and as part of your ingrained survival mechanisms) you learned to avoid things that cause pain and fear. This is smart: Things that cause pain and fear usually are bad. However, in the case of how to heal PTSD, oftentimes pain and fear are actually good. They offer insights and clues to moving forward.
When pain and fear come up is a great time to note what you’re thinking and feeling — and why — so that you learn more about what you need to move forward as well as what’s holding you back. If you find yourself, like my client, stuck knowing what to do but not having the gumption to do it, sometimes a little nudge from your inner coach is called for. In those cases try these three options to help jumpstart your process:
- Think ahead: Ask yourself, “In five years do I want to feel as badly as I do today?” Showing your mind (and yourself) how much worse things will be down the road helps to focus the brain on what to do in order to avoid that.
- Look behind: Ask yourself, “Do I want to continue feeling as badly as I have for the past X years/months/days?” Consciously judging the bad feelings you’ve endured helps your mind focus on what you want to avoid, and then set about figuring out how to do that.
- Assess today: Ask yourself, “What could I be doing today if I felt better?” It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture in PTSD recovery. Focusing your mind on what you want to be doing helps train your brain to propel itself forward with the energy of desire. This can be a powerful motor in how to heal after PTSD symptoms settle in.
Healing PTSD always causes pain and fear — two things that make healing seem like a bad idea. Learning how to follow through despite pain and fear, however, is the crux of reaching the end of posttraumatic stress disorder recovery. It can be done. To start today, identify one thing you want to follow through on. Break it down into as many steps as you can think of. Then, take one step per day.
We have a tendency to think of follow-through as a big and overwhelming task. In truth accomplishing your objective in any PTSD recovery action can be done in micro-steps that feel comfortable and manageable and will, ultimately, add up to the big recovery gains you seek.