How Nature Helped Me Cope With PTSD
It's been two years since my Complex PTSD diagnosis. Throughout this time, I spent countless hours researching, doing treatments like EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), coaching, therapy, meditation, diet, breath work, acupuncture - you name it, I've tried it! And I’m still practicing many of these rituals on a daily basis.
Despite it all, my body continues to feel restless. I often experience shortness of breath, negative thoughts, and it’s nearly impossible to unwind. I’d say the toughest issues I’ve had to deal with are fevers and insomnia.
A little on PTSD: trauma can put our bodies into overdrive because of the “fight or flight” mode lingering within us. This is too much for the body to handle, which can manifest itself through sickness or a fever.
At the beginning of my journey, I’d go hiking in nature. I learned that our bodies process our emotions when we walk… and oh man, did I ever walk! I feel like I've hiked through all of Norway. This helped me a lot, but didn’t get rid of my symptoms. But things eventually took a very promising turn!
Earlier this year, I was blessed with an “ah-ha” moment when my acupuncturist told me this basic fact: when we lack grounding, we can't rest.
My thoughts cleared up and I felt excited to try grounding exercises to see if they’d help heal my PTSD and allow me to sleep normally! But I couldn’t help but wonder, could it really be that easy? All I need to do is ground my energy and Earth will take care of the rest?!
Thankfully, one of my closest friends goes swimming everyday in Norway during the winter - I was so down for the challenge! I called her up and dove in the frigid waters the very next day.
During my first swim, I was unbelievably scared. My friend entered the wavy waters first, using the step ladder. It was then my turn. One foot in the water and I was screaming. I looked at her with fear in my eyes, shivering.
For the first time in our friendship, she yelled, “Just do it, get into the water! NOW! Come on! LET GO!” This shocked me to the core and I jumped right in. I was more afraid of her shouting than the actual swim. The moment I let go, my whole body realized this new experience and I started to hyperventilate...but not in a panicky way. I noticed it, took deep, calming breaths and was able to calm down.
Coming out of the water, I experienced a rush of endorphins. I felt so free and powerful!
Being able to control my breath in that wild environment removed my fear of panic attacks altogether. It also boosted my self-esteem because I conquered such a scary thing. So I went back to the water. And then back again. I loved it so much that I almost didn't realize my fever had nearly disappeared.
It’s been weeks since I took that first dive, and my fevers are now few and far between. The most enjoyable result is that my sleep has improved by around 70%! That’s real progress.
So my question is: is there something to be said about swimming and connecting with Earth to heal trauma?
I think so! I’m honestly shocked at how effectively my daily 10 minute water plunges have improved my overall health. If you’re struggling emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically, I suggest trying it out!
Have you tried water healing or anything other grounding rituals that have helped you reduce symptoms of trauma? Tell us in the comment section below!