Hi friends, this is Subsequently Sweeter, where sometimes we freak out our friends and family, but things get a little better every day. I’m Sara, and today I’ll be speaking to those friends and family members about how they can help people with PTSD.
It’s easy to feel helpless and wonder what you can do to help when you love someone who is suffering from PTSD. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do!
- Research PTSD. The more you know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of PTSD, the better you will be at talking to us about it. Your informed, nonjudgmental support can go a long way toward making our hard days better.
- Ask us what PTSD is like for us. Find out which symptoms bother us the most. Learn what our triggers are. Ask us about our treatment. Remember what helps us calm down, so that you can get it for us when we’re freaking out.
- Listen. Ask “how are you?” and show that you’re interested in a real answer. Then, really listen, without trying to fix it. The fact that our feelings are often irrational is besides the point.
- Help us put our feelings into words. When we’re flooded with emotion, it’s hard to describe just what those emotions are. Try asking, “are you angry?” or “do you feel scared?” or “is there too much going on around you right now?”
- Give us space when we need it. We can be easily overwhelmed, even by seemingly normal situations. Setting boundaries — and having them respected — bolsters our sense of safety and control.
- Prevent isolation. Even if we can’t always participate, it means a lot that we’re invited. And when we can be there, it’s a welcome opportunity to make new memories so we’re not just focusing on the past.
- Take care of yourself. You can’t help us if you’re starving, short on sleep, stressed out from work, or whatever. Be at your best so that we can be, too.
- Have a plan for when we’re triggered. Stay calm and recognize the situation for what it is — PTSD rearing its ugly head. Provide some things that help us to calm down. And if you need to go somewhere else to feel safe, please do it.
- Recognize the difference between soothing and minimizing. When we’re triggered, our bodies and emotions are reacting the same way you would if your house was burning down. So gently, calmly reassure us that everything is OK. Don’t make us feel ridiculous or stupid for how we feel.
- Exercise with us. It sounds silly, but exercise is known for relieving stress. We can use all the help we can get in that department.
- Work with us to create structure. When we can predict what will happen to us, we feel safer and it becomes easier to work around things that inevitably come up.
When PTSD affects a family member or close friend, your heart hurts for them and sometimes you just don’t know what to do. I hope this list helps you to reach out to your loved one with PTSD and feel like a powerful source of hope and security in their life. When people like you have our backs, every day really can be subsequently sweeter.