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 3


Health Literacy Focus: Understanding Psychological Symptoms


Understanding Negative Emotions.

Negative emotions play a significant role in PTSD, often manifesting as intense and persistent feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and guilt. These emotions are typically triggered by reminders of the traumatic event and can be overwhelming and debilitating. You may experience a heightened state of arousal, leading to irritability and difficulty controlling anger, and you may also struggle with persistent sadness and depression, feeling hopeless about the future. Guilt and shame are common, especially if you feel you could have done something to prevent the trauma or if you survived when others did not. These negative emotions can contribute to avoidance behaviours, where you try to steer clear of anything that might remind you of the trauma, which in turn can hinder your ability to engage in daily activities and maintain healthy relationships. Understanding and addressing these negative emotions is crucial in the treatment of PTSD, as they are core components of the disorder that significantly impact your quality of life.

Only recently have we begun understanding the broad range of negative emotions in PTSD, such as anger, shame, anxiety, and fear. Further, emotion dysregulation is seen in PTSD, which includes a lack of emotional awareness, difficulty controlling behaviours during emotional distress, and a lack of strategies to modulate emotional responses. Neuroimaging studies in adults with PTSD reveal structural and functional abnormalities in multiple brain regions. Functional neuroimaging, particularly fMRI, has enabled in-depth examination of brain function in PTSD during tasks of emotion processing and regulation, revealing heightened amygdala activation to negative stimuli, altered insula engagement, under-engagement of the anterior cingulate cortex, and variable prefrontal cortex  responses. These neural changes result in the symptoms of PTSD, including difficulty regulating emotions and heightened experiences of negative emotions.

Coping Toolkit: Journaling


What is Journaling?

Journaling is a therapeutic practice where you write about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences as you process and work towards recovery. This process facilitates emotional expression by providing a safe outlet for emotions like fear, anger, sadness, or guilt, which may be difficult to verbalize. It also aids cognitive processing by helping you organize and make sense of your experiences, leading to a better understanding of the trauma and its impact on your life. Additionally, journaling can be cathartic, reducing stress and helping manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. By taking control of your narrative, you can reclaim a sense of agency and empowerment often undermined by the traumatic experiences you have faced. Journaling also allows you to track progress over time, noting improvements in your emotional and psychological well-being and motivating you to continue on your path to recovery. Regular journaling encourages self-reflection, revealing patterns, triggers, and effective coping strategies.

Writing and wellness are closely linked. The self-reflection involved in journaling is believed to enhance self-knowledge, self-regulation, personal growth, and adaptation to adversity. Journal writing, when done purposefully, can be a powerful tool for healing and change. Research has shown that journaling can reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being. Further, positive affect journaling involves writing about positive aspects of life, and research has found that it is effective in reducing mental distress, anxiety, and perceived stress, while enhancing resilience and social integration. In another study, journaling with positive prompts was associated with increased psychological well-being, particularly for individuals with a higher tendency to engage in self-reflection.

Try It.

 

To start journaling, set aside a few minutes each day in a quiet, comfortable space. Begin by writing about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences during that or the previous day. You can write about your day, your emotions, your goals, or anything else that comes to mind. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just let your thoughts flow. Writing regularly can help you clarify your thoughts, reduce stress, and gain insight into your emotions. Experiment with different journaling styles, such as free writing, gratitude journaling, or goal setting, to find what works best for you.

 

Self-Care Activity: Improving Nutrition


Understanding Neuroprotective Foods.

Neuroprotective foods support brain health and protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by providing essential nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. As such, nutritional psychiatry, a field exploring the impact of diet on mental health, highlights that balanced diets containing essential components and phytochemicals can modulate neurobiological pathways, meaning that diet directly affects mental health. Research indicates that a healthy diet rich in nutrients can play a significant role in preventing and managing mental disorders and promoting overall mental well-being. Consequently, dietary modifications that enhance nutrient intake and reduce inflammation may play a vital role in improving mental health and mitigating the impact of mental disorders.

Key neuroprotective foods and nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D. Omega-3 fatty acids, abundant in whole fish, are essential for brain gray matter and neurogenesis, which has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. As such, diets rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are linked to mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. For example, the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and legumes, has been associated with a lower risk of mental disorders due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Neural plasticity and neurogenesis, crucial for learning, memory, and mood regulation, are also influenced by diet, with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and flavonols being positively linked to BDNF levels, which are crucial for neurogenesis. Amino acids from food help balance neurotransmitter levels, while certain diets support adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus and neocortex, areas critical for emotion and cognition.

Interestingly, the gut-brain axis and the role of gut microbiota in mental health are also crucial, suggesting that probiotics and prebiotics can positively affect mental well-being. Additionally, polyphenols like resveratrol, curcumin, epigallocatechin gallate, and quercetin have been shown to improve mitochondrial functions. Mitochondria are crucial for cellular energy production and many neuronal functions. Certain nutrients can optimize mitochondrial function; for example, niacin and riboflavin are essential for ATP production, while deficiencies in nutrients like vitamin B6, copper, and zinc can cause mitochondrial dysfunction.

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.

Key neuroprotective foods include omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, which are crucial for reducing inflammation and supporting synaptic plasticity. B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12, are vital for brain function and can be sourced from leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fortified cereals. Vitamin D, obtained from sunlight exposure, fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and supplements, is linked to reduced risks of depression and cognitive decline. Antioxidants, which protect the brain from oxidative stress, include vitamin E in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, and vitamin C in citrus fruits, berries, and bell peppers. Polyphenols, antioxidant-rich plant compounds found in fruits like berries and grapes, vegetables, tea, coffee, and dark chocolate, help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. Zinc, which is essential for brain function and mood regulation, can be found in meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Magnesium, important for nerve function, is present in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dark chocolate. Probiotics and prebiotics, which support gut health and consequently brain health, are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, and in fibre-rich foods like bananas, onions, garlic, and whole grains. Finally, a variety of fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, with leafy greens, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts being particularly beneficial. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help protect against cognitive decline, improve mental health, and support overall brain function.

 

Try adding as many of these foods as possible to your diet this week and reflect on how they affect your mood and well-being.

Relaxation Technique: Guided Relaxation Exercises


What is Autogenic Training?

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in the 1930s. It involves mental repetition of specific exercises to induce relaxation and is believed to engage the autonomic nervous system and the mind-body link to alleviate anxiety. Autogenic training involves autosuggestion related to passive concentration on bodily perceptions of heaviness and warmth, eliciting a psychophysiological relaxation response. This uses homeostatic self-regulatory brain mechanisms to support natural self-healing, addressing disorders like stress and trauma.

The exercises typically begin with deep breathing and progressively move to focusing on the sensations of warmth and heaviness in the limbs, heartbeat, and abdominal region. Autogenic training aims to promote physical and mental well-being by reducing tension, anxiety, and stress, and it has been used as a therapeutic tool for various conditions, including anxiety disorders, hypertension, and insomnia. Regular practice can enhance self-regulation and improve overall health by encouraging a relaxed state and reducing the impact of stress on the body and mind. Studies indicate that autogenic training is effective in reducing symptoms of various somatic disorders and improving psychological health, particularly during stressful periods.

Studies have shown autogenic training’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety in various populations, including cancer patients, nursing students, stroke survivors, and athletes, with some studies indicating long-term benefits. Studies have also shown positive effects on psychological distress in various chronic conditions. Research shows autogenic training is also effective in reducing pain, comparable to other psychological interventions such as progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback. It helps manage pain by reducing muscle tension and anxiety and releasing endorphins.

Try It.

Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, and close your eyes.

Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth.

Shift your focus to your body. Start by focusing on your arms. Feel them becoming heavy and warm. Repeat to yourself, “My arms are heavy and warm.” Focus on this sensation for a few moments, allowing your arms to become heavier, drifting down. Feel the deep relaxation as your arms feel so heavy, so pleasantly warm.

Move your focus to your legs. Pay attention as they become heavy and warm. Again, repeat to yourself, “My legs are heavy and warm.” Focus on this sensation for a few moments as your legs become increasingly heavier and the surface beneath you seems to drift away. Your legs are so heavy, so pleasantly warm.

Now, focus on your breathing. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out. Repeat to yourself, “My breathing is calm and steady.” Focus on this sensation for a few moments as your chest rises up, allowing you to fill with life-giving oxygen and then slowly fall as you release the unneeded carbon dioxide. And again, in and out, rising and falling, your rhythmic breaths hypnotizing you into a deep state of peace.

Finally, focus on your heartbeat. Feel it slowing down and becoming more regular. Repeat to yourself, “My heartbeat is calm and regular.” Focus on this sensation for a few moments as your heart gently beats within your chest. Feel each regular beat as it pushes oxygen out to every area of your body, keeping you strong and vital, and each regular beat as the blood returns to your chest to release the carbon dioxide.

Take a few moments to relish in the deep sense of calm, peace, and control, knowing you’re your body is strong, that you are steady. Take a few more deep breaths, and when you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.

Journal


Weekly Journal Prompts:

 

Additional Resources


Anti-inflammatory meal plan: 26 recipes to try – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322897