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 2


Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Psychological Symptoms


Understanding Negative Beliefs

Negative beliefs are distorted and pervasive thoughts that we develop about ourselves, others, and the world as a result of traumatic experiences. These beliefs significantly impact our mental health and well-being, leading to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and chronic anxiety. Common negative beliefs about the self include thoughts like “I am worthless,” “I am damaged,” and “I don’t deserve happiness.” Regarding others, we may believe that “people can’t be trusted” or “no one can understand or help me.” Negative beliefs about the world might include “the world is unsafe” and “there is no justice or fairness.” These beliefs contribute to maladaptive behaviours such as avoidance, hypervigilance, and social withdrawal.

When extremely negative events occur, our brain’s focus shifts to preventing the recurrence of these events by replaying and simulating past experiences to update our beliefs and improve our future decisions. However, this can also cause you to overpredict the frequency of negative outcomes, making many experiences appear riskier. Symptoms like flashbacks and rumination can assist in integrating and overcoming traumatic experiences. However, for some, these symptoms persist and cause distress, which causes you to continue making negative predictions.

Further, if you are experiencing increased anxiety, you may overestimate the likelihood of negative events, leading to increased avoidance behaviours, which can maintain high anxiety states. These increased negative beliefs can cause you to over-generalize regular events as traumatic triggers, and if you are unable to stop repetitive negative thoughts, PTSD symptoms can be worsened.

Coping Toolkit: Thought Stopping


What is Thought Stopping?

Thought stopping is a cognitive-behavioural technique used to interrupt and reduce the frequency of unwanted, distressing thoughts. When you notice a negative or intrusive thought, you will actively use a predetermined method, such as saying “stop” out loud or visualizing a stop sign, to halt the thought in its tracks. This interruption is followed by shifting focus to a more positive or neutral thought or engaging in a distracting activity. The goal is to break the cycle of rumination and reduce the impact of these negative thoughts on your emotional state and behaviour. Over time, with consistent practice, thought stopping can help you gain better control over your thought patterns and reduce the distress associated with intrusive thoughts.

When we are experiencing anxiety, we often exhibit attentional bias toward threats, which perpetuates the anxiety: stopping those negative thoughts is crucial to controlling anxiety. The feelings of uncertainty and helplessness that often accompany negative thought patterns can be overwhelming; however, thought stopping has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. By helping to control thought chains and break negative cognitive cycles, thought stopping is effective in treating various anxiety disorders. Other studies have shown that thought stopping, particularly when paired with progressive muscle relaxation practices, can significantly reduce anxiety levels in patients and improve their ability to control negative thoughts.

Try It.

Recognize the negative thought: Start by becoming aware of the negative thought that you want to stop. It could be a recurring worry, self-criticism, or any other unwanted thought.

Use a cue word: Choose a cue word or phrase that you will use to interrupt the negative thought. This could be something like “Stop,” “Cancel,” or “No.” We know someone who uses a prerecorded button, which, when pressed, says “STOP IT!” out loud.

Interrupt the thought: As soon as you notice the negative thought, say your cue word or phrase either out loud or silently in your mind. This is a signal to stop the negative thought in its tracks.

Replace with a positive thought: Immediately after using your cue word, replace the negative thought with a positive or neutral thought. This could be a simple affirmation like “I am calm and in control” or “I choose to think positively.”

Repeat as needed: If the negative thought returns, continue to use your cue word and replace it with a positive thought. With practice, this process can become more automatic and help you manage negative thinking patterns.

Practice regularly: Like any skill, thought stopping becomes more effective with practice. Try to incorporate this exercise into your daily routine to build your ability to control unwanted thoughts.

Self-Care Activity: Improving Nutrition


Understanding Whole Foods.

Whole foods are foods that are in their natural state, unprocessed or minimally processed, and free from additives or artificial ingredients. These foods are typically nutrient-dense, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds in their natural form. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Unlike processed foods, which often contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives, whole foods retain their natural nutritional value and are considered better choices for overall health and well-being. Incorporating a variety of whole foods into your diet can help support better health outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Studies suggest that PTSD may have modestly harmful influences on dietary habits, which could contribute to the increased risk of metabolic disorders among individuals with PTSD. Further, a standard Western diet has been linked to a higher risk of psychiatric symptoms, while a whole foods-based Mediterranean-style diet appears protective. Studies show strong correlations between a healthy diet and improved mental well-being. For instance, diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with increased happiness and higher levels of mental health. Studies have also found that healthy diets, such as those high in fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, are linked to a reduced likelihood of depression. Additionally, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the interaction between diet and brain function, with a healthy gut microbiota linked to improved cognitive function and mental well-being. As such, increasing fermented foods, such as kefir, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt, show promise in influencing the gut microbiota, which can then impact mental health. Finally, studies suggest that healthy dietary patterns, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, are associated with lower anxiety risk, while poorer-quality diets are linked to increased risk.

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.

A whole-food diet emphasizes consuming minimally processed foods in their natural state, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds, while avoiding highly processed foods like fast food and microwaveable dinners. It may require more meal planning and preparation than eating processed foods; however, the differences in the quality of your food and how you will feel are well worth the effort! Try including more whole grains like steel-cut oats, quinoa, and brown rice, as well as a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, and bell peppers, along with starchy vegetables like corn, carrots, and potatoes, are excellent choices. Avocados, poultry, seafood, eggs, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, nuts, seeds, legumes, and oils like olive oil and avocado oil are also delicious parts of a whole-food diet. It’s important to avoid or limit highly processed foods like white bread, French fries, snack mixes, chips, frozen pizza, fast food, and sugary beverages whenever possible.

Relaxation Technique: Guided Relaxation Exercises


What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Self-vagus nerve stimulation (self-VNS) involves using various techniques to stimulate the vagus nerve . These techniques typically focus on activating the vagus nerve through non-invasive methods such as deep breathing, laughter, and cold water submersion. By engaging in these activities, you aim to increase the activity of the vagus nerve, which is thought to have a calming effect on the body and mind. Self-VNS is often used as a complementary therapy for conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

For example, breathing techniques, particularly slow, deep, and diaphragmatic breathing, stimulate the vagus nerve, leading to parasympathetic nervous system  dominance over the sympathetic nervous system, which induces relaxation. Laughter has also been shown to offer health benefits, including improved coping skills, mood enhancement, and increased pain tolerance. One study found that hearing laughter enhanced the recovery process of the parasympathetic nervous system after stress, suggesting vagus nerve activation. Another study found that cold stimulation, such as an ice pack or cool cloth, in the neck area is effective in stimulating the vagus nerve, increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity, and potentially reducing stress.

Try It.

Some vagus nerve stimulation activities you can try include:

Deep, slow breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises, focusing on extending your exhales to stimulate the vagus nerve.

Humming or chanting: Humming or chanting produces vibrations that can stimulate the vagus nerve.

Cold exposure: Brief exposure to cold, such as splashing cold water on your face or taking a cold shower, can stimulate the vagus nerve.

Meditation: Mindfulness meditation and other forms of meditation can help activate the vagus nerve.

Yoga: Practicing yoga, especially poses that involve deep breathing and gentle twists, can stimulate the vagus nerve.

Singing: Singing loudly or even just humming can stimulate the vagus nerve.

Laughter: Laughter has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and improve vagal tone.

Gargling: Gargling with water can stimulate the muscles in the back of your throat, which are connected to the vagus nerve.

Positive social interactions: Engaging in positive social interactions and feeling connected to others can stimulate the vagus nerve.

Relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery can help stimulate the vagus nerve.

Journal


Weekly Journal Prompts:

 

Additional Resources


6 Easy Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve & Reduce Anxiety  –

Thought Stopping with Bob Newhart – poking fun at thought stopping!