Course Content
Month 1
This month, we will focus on understanding the intrusive and avoidant symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance and influence of physical exercise, and the calming power of breathing exercises. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to physical exercise, a breathing exercise, and journal prompts.
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Month 2
This month, we will focus on understanding the psychological symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of eating a balanced and healthy diet, and the transformative power of relaxation techniques. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage your symptoms, a self-care activity related to nutrition, a guided relaxation exercise, and journal prompts.
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Month 3
This month, we will focus on understanding the reactive symptoms associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of rest, and the therapeutic power of visual meditations. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity focused on rest, a guided visual meditation, and journal prompts.
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Month 4
This month, we will focus on understanding the psychological associated with PTSD and trauma, the importance of sleep, and the healing power of mindfulness meditations. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to sleep, a guided mindfulness meditation, and journal prompts.
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Month 5
This month, we will focus on understanding what cues are and how they impact you, the importance of social connection, and the soothing power of rhythmic movement and mindful exercise. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to connection, a guided rhythmic movement or mindful exercise, and journal prompts.
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Month 6
This month, we will focus on managing symptoms, the importance of celebration, and some additional relaxation techniques. Each week, we will focus on understanding your symptoms, a technique to help manage these symptoms, a self-care activity related to celebration, a relaxation technique, and journal prompts.
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Private: Trauma Recovery Program
About Lesson

Month 1 Week 1


Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Intrusive and Avoidant Symptoms


What are Flashbacks?

Flashbacks are a key symptom of trauma-related issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are characterized by involuntary and distressing memories of a traumatic event that feel as though they are happening in the present moment.

During a flashback, you may feel like you are reliving the trauma, experiencing not only visual and auditory memories but also the emotional and physical sensations you felt during the traumatic event. For example, a person who was sexually abused may feel as though their abuser is physically present, while a combat veteran may experience flashbacks from war.

These flashbacks can take many forms, including vivid visual images, sounds, smells, or other sensations associated with the trauma. They can be triggered by external stimuli, such as sights or sounds that remind you of the traumatic event, or internal stimuli, such as thoughts or emotions similar to those experienced during the trauma. Triggers can vary widely from person to person and can even change for the same person over time.

During a flashback, you may also experience dissociation, a feeling of being disconnected from your thoughts, emotions, memory, or identity. This can make it difficult for you to distinguish between the flashback and reality, increasing your confusion and distress. Flashbacks can last for a few seconds or several hours. They can be accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions, such as fear, anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate, or muscle tension.

Understanding and identifying triggers for flashbacks is an important part of managing your recovery from trauma. Keeping a diary or journal can help you track your triggers and develop coping strategies. Flashbacks are frightening and can be challenging, but with support and coping strategies, you can learn to manage them and improve your quality of life.

Coping Toolkit: 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique


What is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique?

The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a grounding exercise designed to manage acute stress, panic, and anxiety and reduce distress. It is a simple, effective  technique that helps shift your focus from anxiety-provoking thoughts to the present moment. By leveraging the power of your five senses—sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste—it redirects your attention away from distressing thoughts and emotions, grounding you in the here and now.

The 5-4-3-2-1 method works because it engages multiple senses, requiring you to concentrate on the present environment rather than dwell on anxiety-inducing thoughts. This interrupts the fight or flight response, calming the nervous system and reducing symptoms of anxiety or stress almost immediately. Moreover, it can serve as the first step toward long-term coping strategies for mental wellness. Mindfulness-based grounding techniques have been shown to be as effective as therapy and medication for anxiety. Using the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, you will isolate each of your senses and observe a number of things using that specific sense.

Try it.

Before you begin, take a few slow, deep breaths, focusing on exhaling more slowly than you inhale. Once you feel ready, begin.

5 – First, notice five things that you can see around you. Name these five things, either aloud or in your mind. Take time to notice each item fully, and note what colour, shape, size, or texture they are. Consider how each item relates to the rest of the environment.

4 – Next, notice four things that you can touch. As you notice each item, name the item and touch it. What does it feel like? Is it soft, heavy, cold? Take time to make a connection with the sensation of each item.

3 – If you are comfortable, close your eyes and focus on what you can hear. Name three things that you can hear around you: perhaps the gentle rustle of leaves in the trees, the steady hum of a refrigerator, your own breathing, or quiet chatter in the distance. Notice whether each sound is quiet or loud, steady or irregular, near or far. Pay attention to the sounds you find most comforting, and take a moment to appreciate that comfort.

 2 – Next, identify two scents around you. You may want to go to the bathroom in search of a bar of soap, the kitchen for the smell of tea or coffee, or outside to smell the fresh breeze, a flower, or the recent rain. Take time to fully be present with these smells and notice what sensations, images, or emotions they bring to you.

1 – Finally, notice one thing that you can taste. Perhaps you have tea or coffee nearby or a candy bar hidden in your desk. You may go to the kitchen to get a piece of rich, dark chocolate to melt on your tongue, a small piece of cheese to enjoy the richness, or take a sip of water and notice the pleasant, almost imperceptible flavour. Take time to enjoy what you choose to taste, noting all of the pleasure it brings as you appreciate it.

Now that you have completed this exercise take inventory of your level of panic. Note whether it has decreased, where you feel more relaxed within your body, and how you feel as you become present in the here and now. Keep this technique with you for the next time you feel distressed.

Self-Care Activity: Physical Exercise


Understanding Aerobic Exercise.

Aerobic exercise is important and effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, and depression due to its profound impact on both the body and mind. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, which can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by promoting feelings of well-being and relaxation. Physical activity can help reduce levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Regular exercise can also improve sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Exercise has also been shown to promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with PTSD, as it may help to reduce the impact of traumatic memories and improve overall brain health. Moreover, engaging in physical activity can serve as a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and emotions, providing a constructive way to cope with stress and anxiety. Finally, regular exercise can improve self-esteem and self-efficacy, the belief in one’s ability to achieve goals. This can be especially valuable for individuals with PTSD, who may feel a loss of control over their lives.

Try It.

Note: Before starting any new exercise program, especially after a traumatic event, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness trainer to ensure it is safe for you.

This week, start introducing aerobic exercise into your daily schedule. Begin with a short duration, even 5 to 10 minutes at a time, gradually increasing as you feel more comfortable. Ideally, aim for 3 to 5 days per week of low to moderate intensity for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes per day. Choose activities that you enjoy and feel safe doing, such as walking, light jogging, swimming, and cycling. If you can, aim to complete some of your exercise outside, in fresh air and near trees. Remember to be patient with yourself: recovery from trauma takes time, and progress may be slow but steady. Most of all, listen to your body; if you feel any discomfort or pain, take a break and try again when you are feeling better.

Relaxation Technique: Breathing Exercises


What is Box Breathing?

Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four-square breathing, is a simple yet effective relaxation technique that can help calm the mind and body. Box breathing is also known as sama vritti pranayama and is used by the United States Navy SEALs and many people to manage stress. The technique, rooted in the yogic practice of pranayama which emphasizes breath control, is named “box breathing” because it involves four equal parts, similar to the four sides of a box. This method consists of inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding the breath again for a count of four.

Try It.

To practice box breathing, first find a comfortable, quiet, safe location. If you are comfortable, close your eyes. Now, take a few deep breaths to settle into the practice. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath.

Next, slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four. Feel your lungs filling with air and your abdomen rising. At the top of your inhale, hold your breath for a count of four. Keep your body relaxed. Now, slowly exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of four. Feel the air leaving your lungs and your abdomen falling. At the bottom of your exhale, hold your breath for a count of four. Again, keep your body relaxed. Continue this pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding for several cycles, typically for a few minutes, until you feel noticeably more comfortable, calm, and balanced. This technique can be used anytime you need to centre yourself and find a sense of calm.

Journal


Weekly Journal Prompts:

1 – Reflect on what you have learned about flashbacks this week. How does this information help you understand your own symptoms?

2 – Share your thoughts on the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Did utilizing it help you manage your symptoms and ease distress?

3 – Share your experiences with trying out aerobic exercise this week. What activity did you choose? How did you feel before, during, and after engaging in aerobic activity?

4 – How did you feel before, during, and after trying the box breathing technique? Share how you have utilized this technique throughout the week and what it has done for you.

 

Additional Resources


How to Build an Exercise Plan – https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/whats-the-best-exercise-plan-for-me.htm