At times, hypervigilance from PTSD flashbacks can still rear its ugly head. Intense fear makes it feel like I can’t move. I can, but I usually don’t. I get tripped up, paralyzed and frozen in sharp memories, like walking barefoot in a parking lot filled with layers and layers of broken glass. Stress hormones start coursing through my veins and I’m ready to fully engage in fight-or-flight.
When I am dealing with PTSD, I just want to roll up into a ball and be alone, which can lead to toxic isolation and entertaining fear. The RESISTANCE to get moving is excruciating. But breaking through it CAN BE DONE. It takes practice, experimentation, tenacity with a willingness to do whatever it takes to get out from underneath the lies of PTSD by taking positive action to engage in physical activity. Oh, and it takes balls too!
When I successfully break through the resistance, and get myself EXERCISING, then my emotions and energy shifts. The more I push myself and have a strenuous healthy workout—the more likely the PTSD symptoms will simply disappear. And if they don’t, then the ruminating thoughts, emotional intensity and physical tenseness will iron out, to one degree or another. Then, I’m in a really good spot–I can be more present and in touch with what I need to do to best take care of myself.
One day, I shared a swim lane with a Marine. We took a break and talked. He had PTSD too. He noticed that I stopped every time I reached the end of the pool. He said if I want to get in better shape, then I would need to push myself. He suggested I set a goal of how many laps to swim, before giving myself the “luxury of a break.”
He predicted I will want to stop swimming before the set of laps are over, but instead of stopping, he advised me to push myself and keep going. And that’s what I do now. I always hear his words:
“The only way you’re going to build endurance is if you get outside of your comfort zone.”
Even when I think I cannot go on, I keep going. It’s not perfect, but I do it more and more. It’s like building a muscle.
Exercise is not the end-all answer. But exercise settles you. Grounds you. Gets you in shape. Irons out emotions. Helps you get out of your head. Alleviates or reduces PTSD symptoms. It simply makes you feel good.
Give yourself this gift. You are worth it.
- 2015 by Lisa Jo Barr