“Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.” — Pema Chodron
During these uncertain Corona Times, the words of famed Buddhist Pema Chodron can be particularly comforting to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Roughly 20% of American War Veterans experience PTSD while the rate of suicide for Veterans is 1.5 times the amount as non-veterans. These statistics serve to remind us that while we don’t know the exact correlation between the diagnosis of PTSD to suicide in Veterans, we can assume that mitigating the symptoms of stress will in fact save our warriors from self-harm.
There are wonderful resources for those who feel particularly anxious right now from military caregivers to canine companions. Social distancing, isolation, job insecurity or loss — the list of COVID-19-related life circumstances can seem endless, but there can be, if not silver linings, then ways to decrease the emotional swings.
Here are a few:
Get Outside: Just 20 minutes spent in nature has been proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase a sense of well-being. This so-called “nature pill” is less costly than a medical prescription from your healthcare provider and is, for most, easily accessible. Urban dwellers can sit or stand in a park while those living in more rural areas can access Mother Nature embracing the expanse of a cornfield or even a cloud-puffed sky.
Schedule Daily Screen Vacations: The average American spends 12 hours a day in front of a TV, phone, tablet, laptop, gaming device or other media-related screen. There are many studies which support that time spent ingesting news, watching violent content or engaging in contentious social media streams can exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD. We know. It’s hard to silence the device or switch off the news, but there are timers and apps to help you take breaks. As the sneaker brand Nike says:
Just do it.
Pick Up A Paintbrush or Pencil: While there are no hard statistics supporting its merit, art therapy has been used since the 1970s to help American Combat Veterans process their wartime experiences and alleviate their PTSD symptoms. Being able to externalize through painting, drawing, sculpting, or any other form of creating, what you’re feeling inside can be mentally and psychologically liberating. During COVID-19, when anxiety and/or depression can be heightened, people may experience an emotional relief by simply drawing a picture of what they’re feeling, taking that fear or sadness “out of themselves” by putting it on paper or canvas.