Mindfulness As a PTSD Coping Mechanism

Courtesy of American Addiction Centers

Firefighting is a dangerous job. There have been three really tragic fires in the past few months. West, TX lost nine firefighters from five departments in an explosion. Prescott, AZ lost 19 firefighters in a wildfire. Houston lost four firefighters in a motel fire.

It’s very possible that a number of the brothers and sisters who survived these incidents are suffering from or will suffer from PTSD. When coping with PTSD or other anxiety issues, practicing mindfulness can be very beneficial.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment while also being more willing to recognize and accept the difficult emotions that can arise after experiencing trauma. By taking note of your thoughts and feelings and allowing them to “just be,” you’re more able to let them go, without acting on them with isolation or dangerous behavior.1

Important factors in mindfulness include:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Recognizing and accepting one’s thought process
  • Staying “in the moment”
  • Accepting one’s feelings and emotions

Mindfulness can reduce reactions to trauma

One study investigated the association between mindfulness and several measures of health, including PTSD, depressive and physical symptoms, and alcohol problems, in 124 urban firefighters. The results showed that mindfulness was associated with fewer PTSD symptoms. Researchers concluded that mindfulness is important to include in models of stress, coping, and resilience in firefighters.2

Several types of therapy apply mindfulness practices to patients with mood disorders, PTSD, depression, and even drug addiction. These therapies can target specific problems, such as:

  • Difficult feelings and stresses in everyday life
  • Urges to use/abuse substances
  • The stress of physical health problems, i.e. chronic pain, injury
  • Negative thinking patterns that can cause depression
  • Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, stretching, or meditation, can help boost cortisol levels; people who have PTSD have extremely low cortisol levels, and raising cortisol in this group of people is actually considered a good thing.”3

Do YOU practice mindfulness? Weigh in at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanAddictionCenters.

If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, depression, addiction, or other issue affecting your work and life, please call the National Fire Service Member Assistance Program at 1-888-731-FIRE (3473). Your call is confidential. Help is just a phone call away.

[1] PTSD.va.gov
[2] NCBI
[3] Eureka Alert