Monthly Archives: October 2014

029 – Three Way YOU Can Change the World

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IdeaActionChange by David Castillo Dominici FDPWe may never directly change the course of human events.  However, we can change someone’s world.  We can impact the individuals that are in our lives.  We can influence our coworkers, neighbors, friends, family members, and even strangers we meet.

In this episode:

  • What is influence?
  • How can I influence others?
  • How does this relate to PTSD and recovery?
  • Three ways you can change the world: Listen, Share, and Encourage.

What is influence?

Influence: the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause change without forcing them to happen[1]

How can I influence others?

We have the power to influence others.  You might say, “I am not that smart.”, or “I don’t have that much experience.”  We do not have to have all the solutions to their problems.  Rather, it starts with a willingness to listen, share and encourage.

How does this relate to PTSD and recovery?

Part of the RESTORE process we follow is the second “R” of RESTO”R”E – Reaching Out to Others.  At some point our own growth seems to stagnate if we only focus on our own growth.  Reaching out to others is a valuable tool that will not only benefit our lives but it will also benefit those around us.

This can seem complicated at first glance.  It is, if you take the position that you have to have the answers.  You do not have to have the answers!  Below is a simple way to get started helping people along their journey toward wholeness.

Three ways YOU can begin to change the world.

Listen:

Listening is more than hearing someone.  Listening does not have to involve solving their problem.  Sometimes people just need to express their thoughts and ideas.

Here are some listening skill tips:

  • Eye contact: not constant but for a few seconds at a time. Too much may be threatening.  None at all makes you seem totally disconnected.  Each situation may be a little different.  Don’t force it.  The person you are listening too may not be comfortable with too much eye contact.
  • Be present: resist the temptation to check your phone, text, clocks, etc.
  • Focus on what they are saying, not your response.   You may hear things that are disturbing.  Remember that you are not sitting as a judge over their story.  Let them talk.  At the same time if it is too much for you to handle, speak up.
  • Let them talk…don’t interrupt. At this moment it is about them, not what you think about whatever it is they are saying.
  • Ask clarifying questions when necessary. It is OK to ask a clarifying question if you don’t understand something.  It is best to wait for the speaker to pause before asking the question.
  • Provide feedback: A few well placed “un huh”, oh, wow, or whatever might be appropriate lets the speaking know you are engaged.
  • Some silence is OK.
  • Resist the temptation to solve their problem. They may ask you for advice and you are free to give it.  But advice is not the point of listening.  The point is to listen and then, perhaps advise.
  • It is ok to admit you do not have a solution.
  • It is ok to acknowledge the difficulty of their struggle.
  • It is ok to acknowledge their strength and fortitude that is expressed in their story.
  • It is ok to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

Share:

  • Third party resources such as books, blogs, podcasts, stories about others
  • Personal experiences with the third party resources. What would be more affective, “This is a book about X and it has helped people with X”, or “I read this book about X and it changed my life.”  Which podcast episode, blog post, book, resource has led to a positive change in your own life.
  • Your personal successes. Even if you only have little successes.  Share what you have done and are doing.

Encourage them to:

  • keep fighting, keep searching for answers, keep moving forward
  • read, listen, participate
  • Seek help and additional resources
  • Utilize the resources they already have

Listening Resources

Question: What resources have help you on your journey toward recovery?  What episodes/topics from our podcast were most helpful?

Image courtesy of David Castillo on freedigitalphotos.net

 [1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/influence

028 – The Impact of PTSD on the Family

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CouplePorblems David Castillo Dominici FDPThe Impact of PTSD on the Family

In this episode we discuss:

  • Secondary traumatization
  • Ways families respond to stress (and Post-Traumatic Stress)
  • Two key areas of stress for the family
  • Resources for the family

The family’s response to increased stress: (In part based on Kerr & Bowen, 1988)

  1. Grow distant from each other
  2. One will take on the traditional role of another member of the family.
  3. An individual may sacrifice themselves for the sake of “peace”
  4. Conflict
  5. Adapt, bond together and grow

Two significant problem areas the anger outbursts and emotional numbing

Anger outbursts 

  • May be verbal or physical
  • Not necessarily directed at spouse or children
  • Aggression may have been adaptive and appropriate during war
  • Fear and guilt both past and present are foundations of anger
  • May lead to the family members developing maladaptive coping skills
  • See more an anger in “Healing The Wounds of War” episodes: 1314, and 15)

Emotional Numbing

  • Isolation for social situations and from family members
  • My become more withdrawn after anger outburst – fear of again losing control
  • Seems unable to experience the good emotions
  • Fears experiencing the “bad” emotions associated with the past
  • May adopt an authoritarian way of dealing with family members

Survivor guilt can make it difficult to connect with family.

Resources for Family Support

  • NAMI.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness: Family-to-Family peer support) This group offers peer support for mental problems of many kinds. They offer a 12 session class at no cost.  It is not necessarily specific to PTSD, but many of the family coping skills needed cross boundaries.  Classes are offered around the country.  Check out their website for more information.
  • MilitaryOnesource.mil (for military members and their families) or you can call 800-342-9647
  • ptsd.va.gov/public/web-resources/web-families.asp (A good place to start for veterans and their family members)

More references

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on freedigitalphoto.net

027 – 10 Tips for Better Sleep

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Sleep Stuart Miles FDPSleep is extremely important for the whole body.  The brain is no exception.  When we are recovering from PTSD we need are brains firing on all cylinders.

PTSD introduces some difficult barriers to sound sleep.  Hyper-vigilance and nightmares are two obstacles that those with PTSD face.

However, a good night’s rest starts with the same foundation for both those with PTSD and the rest of the population.  Once the foundation is in place we are better equipped to deal with specific difficulties.

The foundation

Several sleep improvements list exist.  I link to a few of them below.  Here are the 10 things I have found helpful.

1. Get plenty of light.

What?  I thought dark was necessary for sleep?  Well, it is.  However, getting plenty of intense light in the morning can help set of up for sleep at night.  Daylight intensity triggers our brain to produce serotonin—an important brain chemical, especially during the day, for emotions, thinking and energy.  It is made by the same gland in the brain that produced melatonin—an important brain chemical for nighttime for rest that is produced in the dark.

2. Get plenty of physical activity.

Yes, that beloved topic…exercise! Exercise is excellent for reducing stress and balancing out brain chemicals.  It is usually best to do it early in the day or at least 4 hours before bed.  Your body needs time to cool down and recover.

3. Make sure it is dark.

Just as we need light during the day to help our brains fully function.  We need dark to help the properly function while we sleep (see above).

Experiment with getting rid of as much light as possible.  Sometimes window blinds are not enough.  Curtains over windows (or experiment with putting up a thick blanket.)  Clock radios, cell phones, cordless phones, chargers, and other electronics can also be a source of light that might affect our brain activity.

The experts also say the light from TV or computer screens can interfere with melatonin production.

4. Limit or Eliminate Caffeine

It is a stimulant.  People often report that it does not affect their sleep.  It may not may or may not affect your ability to fall asleep.  But it does affect your ability to get the proper rest your brain needs.

At the very least limit your caffeine intake to 1 or 2 servings a day.  Stop caffeinated beverages around 2 pm (about 8 hours before bed).

5. Eliminate Nicotine

It is a stimulant.  

6. Limit Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant and it can help someone fall asleep.  However, it interferes the deep, restful and restorative stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle.  In other word, you may fall asleep more quickly but you will not rest as soundly.

7. Watch what and when you eat.

A big meal may make you sleepy but it won’t typically give you a good night’s rest.  Digesting a heavy or spicy meal has been shown to interfere with a good night sleep.  Try eating a litter earlier in the evening.  Consider making dinner a smaller meal.  Reserve lunch for the spicy or heavy foods.

8. Limit your activity in bed.

Reserve this space for sleep and sex.  From stress to mental stimulation, E-mail, work, electronics each can disrupt our rest.

These last two may be particularly helpful for those with PTSD.

9. Meditation and deep breathing

Practice these techniques during the day.  If necessary apply them as you are trying to get your mind in a restful state around bed time.  Once learned, these can also be useful with we become overstimulated—loud noise, dream, etc.

10. Medication for nightmare reduction instead of a direct sleep aid.

If nightmares are a problem talk with your healthcare provider.  For a long time I use a medication called Prazosin.  It is an older blood pressure medication.  My provider told me that it was about 80% effective in a double blind study at reducing or eliminating nightmares in PTSD patients.

It was affective for me as well.  But be careful.  It can seriously lower your blood pressure—especially as your body adjust to the increasing dose.  So take care when you rise at night, especially to use the bathroom. 

It worked for me.  While I was taking Prazosin I hardly had a nightmare. 

So why did I stop?  I experienced one of the rarer side effect, nocturnal enuresis…aka nighttime urinary incontinence or bed-wetting.

Yet I am glad I took it for a while.  It helped me get better sleep.  The better sleep helped me better deal with the underlying problems.   From time to time I still have PTSD related nightmares, but they are getting less intense and lest frequent.

Question: What has helped you get a healthy, restful and restorative night sleep?

Some Sleep Resources

Image courtacy Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net