Many people suffer a variety of symptoms after a traumatic experience, such as an auto accident, rape, assault, loss of a loved one, or combat. These symptoms, known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), can include anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, jumpiness, poor concentration, irritability, and disassociation. Fortunately for trauma survivors, healthy living alone can do a lot to alleviate PTSD symptoms.

Self-help strategies for PTSD are recommended by a number of sources. Anxiety BC suggests that PTSD sufferers practice grounding techniques, such as touching objects around them and describing the objects (texture, color, etc.) It also recommends getting back to a normal life as soon as possible, including hobbies and sports. If you are not quite ready for a full re-entry into your normal routine, take a walk, go to a movie, or have coffee with a friend instead. Pleasant activities that get you out of the house can help you move on with your life.

Help Guide reports that evidence suggests outdoor activities, such as hiking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and white water rafting can benefit those who are struggling with symptoms of PTSD. The peace, relaxation, and seclusion that come with being in a natural setting, along with strenuous outdoor sports activity, can help “unstick” the traumatic experience. The Sierra Club provides expeditions in the wilderness for returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets for that reason, per Help Guide.

The Veterans Administration recommends positive activities, such as art, to improve your mood and help rebuild your life with PTSD. If you have flashbacks, the VA suggests that you keep your eyes open, look around you and notice where you are, get up and move around, and call someone you trust to talk. About Health stresses the benefits of healthy lifestyle for PTSD, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a good night’s sleep.

Vigorous exercise may be one of the best things a person with PTSD can do. According to an article from Gift from Within, a PTSD information resource, exercise may benefit PTSD sufferers in three possible ways:

  • Exercise is a healthy distraction from the source of the stress.
  • The mastery and control involved in exercising helps a person regain control.
  • Social interaction often involved with sports has psychological benefits.

Exercise is vital for mental health, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It reduces stress and fatigue and improves concentration, alertness, and cognitive function. As reported by ADAA, research has shown that regular aerobic exercise can reduce tension, improve sleep, elevate mood, and raise self-esteem. A brisk walk, even if only for 10 minutes, can produce hours of anxiety relief.