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How to be an ally to someone dealing with PTSD

An estimated 8 percent of the population will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime.

PTSD,  helping military, friendship

Helping those affected by PTSD.

Up to 8% of the American population will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime, according to the National Center for PTSD.

As much as people might not want to discuss it, traumatic experiences are not rare. In fact, recent data suggests that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.


For a long time, it was believed that only those who had served in the military could develop PTSD, but that's simply not true.

The reality is that, while it may be more prevalent among certain groups,PTSD can affect anyone who's experienced a traumatic event. It's important to be able to speak about it clearly and openly, without fear or condemnation, in order to promote understanding and healing.

Virtual Reality, therapy, reliving trauma

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one piece of the puzzle.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Today, more treatments exist for PTSD than ever before.

The medical and psychological communities are finding new and effective ways of treating the disorder. For example, therapies involving virtual reality and paintball have shown to be promising in treating veterans. Both are methods where an individual is exposed to the triggers of their symptoms in a safe and controllable way.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (where one learns to think more realistically and logically) and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (in which an individual relives the traumatic experience in small doses and while remaining firmly in reality) can also be effective in treating the disorder. But therapy, no matter how effective, is only one piece of the puzzle.

Helping those with PTSD must also include compassion. Here's how to be an ally.

It's likely that you know someone who's experienced PTSD. It's also likely that you didn't know how to think or react to the disorder.

Confusion (and even judgment) are normal responses. After all, most of us aren't trained therapists. But you don't have to be a mental health professional to help a friend or loved one who's experiencing PTSD.

There's no one right thing to say to someone who's experiencing the disorder. The best thing you can do is just be there. While it may seem helpful to offer wisdom or offer suggestions for how your loved ones can "move on" or "get over it," that's actually counter-intuitive.

Friendship, respecting boundaries, PTSD

Helpful therapy is important.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Those living with PTSD are already under a great deal of pressure. Suggesting therapy is helpful, but trying to make your loved one see "the good side of things" or "remember that this is all part of a bigger plan" is likely to create even more guilt and stress rather than prompt action. PTSD is painful and it's serious, but it's never a sign of weakness.

Respecting boundaries is also important. It's up to the individual when they choose to talk about their trauma. Nobody should force it or take it personally if they don't.

Show up, listen, care. These things are enough. More importantly, they're important steps toward ending stigma and helping our loved ones heal.

This article originally appeared on 06.27.18

Health

4 simple hacks to help you meet your healthy eating goals

Trying to eat healthier? Try these 4 totally doable tricks.

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Most of us want to eat healthier but need some help to make it happen.

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When it comes to choosing what to eat, we live in a uniquely challenging era. Never before have humans known more about nutrition and how to eat for optimal health, and yet we’ve never been more surrounded by distractions and temptations that derail us from making healthy choices.

Some people might be able to decide “I’m going to eat healthier!” and do so without any problem, but those folks are unicorns. Most of us know what we should do, but need a little help making it happen—like some simple hacks, tips and tricks for avoiding pitfalls on the road to healthier eating.

While recognizing that what works for one person may not work for another, here are some helpful habits and approaches that might help you move closer to your healthy eating goals.

man pulling chip out of a chip bagOur mouths loves chips. Our bodies not so much.Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Goal: Snack on less junk food

Tip: Focus your willpower on the grocery store, not your home

Willpower is a limited commodity for most of us, and it is no match for a bag of potato chips sitting on top of the fridge. It’s just a fact. Channeling your willpower at the grocery store can save you from having to fight that battle at home. If you don’t bring chips into your house in the first place, you’ll find it a lot easier to reach for something healthier.

The key to successful shopping trips is to always go to the store with a specific list and a full stomach—you’ll feel much less tempted to buy the junky snack foods if you’re already satiated. Also, finding healthier alternatives that will still satisfy your cravings for salty or crunchy, or fatty foods helps. Sugar snap peas have a surprisingly satisfying crunch, apples and nut butter hit that sweet-and-salty craving, etc.

slice of cakeYou can eat well without giving up sweets completely.Photo by Caitlyn de Wild on Unsplash

Goal: Eat less sugar

Tip: Instead of “deprive,” think “delay” or “decrease and delight”

Sugar is a tricky one. Some people find it easier to cut out added sugars altogether, but that can create an all-or-nothing mindset that all too often results in “all.” Eating more whole foods and less processed foods can help us cut out a lot of ancillary sugar, but we still live in a world with birthday cakes and dessert courses.

One approach to dessert temptation is to delay instead of deprive. Tell yourself you can have any sweet you want…tomorrow. This mental trick flips the “I’ll just indulge today and start eating healthier tomorrow” idea on its head. It’s a lot easier to resist something you know you can have tomorrow than to say no to something you think you’ll never get to have again.

Another approach when you really want to enjoy a dessert at that moment is to decrease the amount and really truly savor it. Eat each bite slowly, delighting in the full taste and satisfaction of it. As soon as that delight starts to diminish, even a little, stop eating. You’ve gotten what you wanted out of it. You don’t have to finish it. (After all, you can always have more tomorrow!)

colorful fresh food on a plateA naturally colorful meal is a healthy meal.Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Goal: Eat healthier meals

Tip: Focus on fresh foods and plan meals ahead of time

Meal planning is easier than ever before. The internet is filled with countless tools—everything from recipes to shopping lists to meal planning apps—and it’s as awesome as it is overwhelming.

Planning ahead takes the guesswork and decision fatigue out of cooking, preventing the inevitable “Let’s just order a pizza.” You can have a repeating 3-week or 4-week menu of your favorite meals so you never have to think about what you’re going to eat, or you can meal plan once a week to try new recipes and keep things fresh.

It might help to designate one day a week to “shop and chop”—getting and prepping the ingredients for the week’s meals so they’re ready to go in your fridge or freezer.

woman holding blueberries in her handsOrganic foods are better for the Earth and for us.Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Goal: Eat more organic/humanely raised food

Tip: Utilize the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” lists to prioritize

Many people choose organic because they want to avoid pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals. Organic food is also better for the planet, and according to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that organic produce is higher in certain nutrients.

Most people don’t buy everything organic, but there are some foods that should take priority over others. Each year, researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyze thousands of samples of dozens of fruits and vegetables. From this data, they create a list of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables, indicating what produce has the most and least pesticide residue. These lists give people a good place to start focusing their transition to more organic foods.

To make organic eating even simpler, you can shop O Organics® at your local Albertsons or Safeway stores. The O Organics brand offers a wide range of affordable USDA-certified organic products in every aisle. If you’re focusing on fresh foods, O Organics produce is always grown without synthetic pesticides, is farmed to conserve biodiversity, and is always non-GMO. All animal-based O Organics products are certified humane as well. Even switching part of your grocery list to organic can make a positive impact on the planet and the people you feed.

Healthy eating habits don’t have to be all or nothing, and they don’t have to be complicated. A few simple mindset changes at home and habit changes at the grocery store can make a big difference.

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