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 2 Week 1


Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Psychological Symptoms


Understanding Dissociative Symptoms.

Dissociative symptoms in PTSD are experiences where you feel disconnected from yourself, your surroundings, or your memories. Studies estimate the prevalence of PTSD with dissociative symptoms to be between 6% and 44.6%. Research has shown dissociative symptoms are more frequent in trauma-related diagnoses, and trauma exposure is significantly correlated with higher dissociation levels. These symptoms can manifest in various ways, including depersonalization, where you feel detached from yourself as if observing your actions, thoughts, or feelings from outside the body, and derealization, where the external world appears unreal or distorted, making surroundings seem foggy, dream-like, or visually altered.

These symptoms can also lead to amnesia, where you are unable to recall important aspects of the traumatic event; identity confusion, where you feel uncertain about your identity, resulting in a sense of disconnection from yourself; and emotional numbing, which manifests as a detachment from emotions, leading to a sense of emotional flatness or numbness. Time distortions can also occur; they might involve losing track of time or feeling like time is moving slowly or quickly. These types of dissociative symptoms can also lead to out-of-body experiences, making you feel as though you are observing yourself from a different vantage point outside your body.

These dissociative symptoms can significantly impair daily functioning and complicate the processing and integration of traumatic memories. While they often serve as coping mechanisms to shield you from the overwhelming distress of traumatic experiences, they can hinder your recovery and the ability to lead a fulfilling life. Research on dissociation levels over time after trauma exposure shows a pattern of an initial sharp rise in dissociative symptoms immediately after the trauma, followed by a gradual decline for most individuals. This suggests that as time goes on, you can expect your dissociative symptoms to decline.

Coping Toolkit: Accepting Our Inner Experiences


Fear of Inner Experiences.

One reason that we dissociate after trauma is a fear of our inner experiences. After trauma, we often feel fear or anxiety about our memories, feelings, and thoughts about the trauma. These fears cause us to avoid internal thoughts, emotions, and sensations, often because they bring up feelings of shame, disgust, or fear. This can stem from a lack of understanding or coping skills for intense inner experiences and the labelling of certain feelings as inherently negative or dangerous. You may also avoid inner experiences that remind you of the past trauma or signal that negative events may be coming. When you feel this fear, you then engage in avoidance, which can manifest in various ways, such as overworking, substance abuse, self-criticism, or withdrawal from others. Overcoming this fear requires accepting, understanding, and regulating your inner experiences without judgment, which can be achieved through therapy and self-awareness. It is essential to acknowledge and address inner experiences to promote healing and personal growth.

Try It.

Throughout this week, try to observe instances when you consciously avoid certain inner experiences. You don’t need to force yourself to stop avoiding them, but simply take note of what you’re avoiding and the circumstances surrounding it. For example, you might find yourself avoiding feelings of anger, thoughts of hopelessness, or the presence of a part of you expressing distress or criticism.

Identify one inner experience (emotion, thought, sensation, memory, fantasy, etc.) that you are slightly afraid or ashamed of. Imagine rating your fear or shame on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being minimal and 10 being extreme. Select an experience that is closer to 1 or 2 to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For each day of the week, answer the following questions:

1 – What inner experience did you avoid or wish to avoid?

2 – What were your beliefs or concerns about the potential consequences of accepting that inner experience?

3 – What actions did you take to avoid the experience?

4 – What support or resources do you think you might need to become less avoidant of this inner experience?

Complete these questions daily to begin accepting and understanding your inner experiences. As your avoidance decreases, so will your dissociative experiences.

Self-Care Activity: Improving Nutrition


Understanding Processed Foods. 

Processed foods are food products that have undergone a series of mechanical or chemical operations to change or preserve them. These processes often involve adding ingredients such as sugar, salt, or fat, as well as using techniques like canning, freezing, or drying. Processed foods can range from minimally processed items like bagged spinach or roasted nuts to highly processed products like sugary sodas, frozen meals, and snack foods. The degree of processing can greatly impact the nutritional content of the food, with some processed foods containing high levels of unhealthy ingredients such as added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium.

Nutrition plays a significant role in well-being, with poor nutrition linked to mental health disorders due to nutrients’ role in neurotransmitter production. Ultra-processed foods include items like breakfast cereals, savoury snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and snack mixes, fast food products, and pre-packaged frozen dishes. These foods constitute a significant portion of the modern diet, contributing to about 50-60% of the energy intake in the US, Canada, and the UK. The effects of fast-food diets and ultra-processed foods are widespread, impacting not just physical but also mental health. Studies show a positive association between ultra-processed food consumption and depressive, anxiety, trauma, stress, and addiction-related symptoms. Importantly, ultra-processed foods lack micronutrients and micronutrients like magnesium, zinc, and certain vitamins, as well as amino acids, which play a role in anxiety prevention and treatment. The exact mechanisms behind these effects are not fully understood, but they are likely due to the poor nutritional quality of ultra-processed foods, their impact on gut microbiota, and the presence of harmful compounds formed during processing.

Try It.

Note: Before starting any new diet or nutritional plan, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it’s safe for you.

This week, pay attention to the foods you purchase, order, and eat. Begin by identifying which ultra-processed foods you consume most frequently. Do you stop for fast food on the way home? Reach for chips or soda when relaxing? Rely on frozen dinners on busy days? Think critically about what you are eating and when you are eating it. Try reducing your processed food consumption by replacing some of these foods with healthier alternatives. Experiment with cooking more at home using fresh ingredients, as this allows you to control what goes into your meals. Additionally, be mindful of your eating habits and pay attention to your hunger cues to avoid mindless snacking on processed foods. Over time, these small changes can lead to a significant reduction in ultra-processed foods in your diet, promoting better overall health and well-being. Pay attention to how you feel when you make healthier choices.

Relaxation Technique: Guided Relaxation Exercises


What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique that involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. The goal of PMR is to reduce muscle tension and promote a state of deep relaxation. During a PMR session, you typically start at one end of your body (e.g., your feet or hands) and work your way up or down, tensing and then releasing each muscle group for about 5-10 seconds each. This process helps you become more aware of the sensations of tension and relaxation in your body, and with practice, you can learn to release tension more effectively. PMR is often used to manage stress, anxiety, and insomnia, and it can be done in a seated or lying down position. It’s important to practice PMR regularly to reap its benefits fully.

Military personnel are at increased risk of cognitive, emotional, and physiological impairments due to stress. As such, complementary and integrative approaches for PTSD, such as PMR, are gaining popularity and have been found to be used by a significant proportion of individuals with PTSD, particularly veterans and military personnel. PMR has been shown to be effective in reducing psychological strain from stress, with studies having shown significant improvements in PTSD symptoms for participants practicing PMR. One study found that PMR is an effective method for reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality, while another study suggested that PMR is among the most effective bodily techniques for inducing relaxation.

Try It.

Find a comfortable seated or lying position. Close your eyes if this feels comfortable for you. Begin by taking a deep breath in, and as you exhale, let go of any tension you may be holding in your body.

Now, focus your attention on your feet. Tense up your feet, curl your toes, and feel the tension in your feet for about 5 to 10 seconds. Next, slowly release the tension as you exhale. Feel your feet becoming warm and relaxed.

Move your attention to your calves and thighs. Tense your calves, thighs, and butt as tightly as you can and feel the tension in these muscles for about 5 to 10 seconds. Now, slowly release the tension as you exhale. Feel your legs becoming heavy and relaxed.

Next, bring your awareness to your stomach and chest. Scrunch your chest in tight and flex your abdominal muscles, tightening up as much as you can. Feel the tension in these areas, holding for a bout 5 to 10 seconds, and then slowly release as you exhale. Feel your stomach and chest rising and falling gently with each breath.

Now, focus on your arms and hands. Clench your fists, tighten your forearms, and flex your upper arms until everything is tense. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, feeling the tension in your arms and hands, and then slowly release it as you exhale. Feel your arms and hands becoming loose and relaxed.

Finally, bring your attention to your neck, shoulders, and head. Scrunch your face and scalp, tense up your shoulders and neck, and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Feel the tension in these areas, and then slowly release it as you exhale. Feel your neck, shoulders, and head becoming light and relaxed.

Take a few moments to enjoy this feeling of relaxation. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and return to the present moment, feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Journal


Weekly Journal Prompts:

 

Additional Resources


The Best Ways to Identify Ultra Processed Foods – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-best-ways-to-identify-processed-foods