Overcoming C-PTSD: Five Physical Strategies for Derailing Overwhelming Symptoms

by Teri Wellbrock

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While I have an overflowing tool box of coping skills to utilize whenever those terrifying symptoms of my C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) pop up, I have recently been focusing specifically on keeping them at bay by using my new “I am lean, I am strong” mantra. I have been on a mission to make myself feel stronger physically along with the added perk of trimming my menopausal waistline. I am amazed by how much stronger I feel mentally and psychologically as a side-effect of my new attitude and regimen.

Following is a list of ways I have been proactively taking more healing strides in my life. Literally.

Smartwatch

My Fitbit Versa, coordinating phone app, and chosen clock face on the watch all keep me motivated and moving. I have set reminders for myself to move at least 250 steps per hour. That keeps me from sitting too long at my computer while at the office (I have a stand-up desk in my home office, but not at my company office . . . more on that in a moment).

I recently bumped my daily step goal to 11,000. And I’m doing it! I grab our therapy dog, Sammie, and head out for a hike at our local nature preserve almost daily (Sammie is afraid of water falling from the sky so we stay indoors on rainy days). Those nature hikes are challenging yet so unbelievably peaceful. Birds chirping, frogs croaking, breezes rustling. I truly find it soul-quenching.

I even hit my goal on The Fourth of July amid a pool party at a friend’s place and family movie night. If I have a few thousand steps to go to make it to 10,000 for the day, I’ll turn on some music in our backyard and walk laps around our pool, while the dogs lounge in the grass curiously watching me move along my oval path.

My trick ankle is less swollen, my wobbly knees are stronger, my resting heart rate is lower, and my anxiety symptoms are staying further and further away. Yay!

I am lean. I am strong.

Swimming

We are blessed to have a beautiful in-ground pool in our idyllic backyard. We are known in our community for hosting movie parties for families. I’ve lost track of the amount of times someone has commented how our little slice of paradise reminds them of being on vacation. There’s a tiki hut, trampoline, gardens, bird feeders, an island marker sign, Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit in the sand, cushioned chairs under a canopy umbrella, and even a Florida Marlin hanging on the back fence.

Luckily our summer weather is usually sunny and hot so our water temperature in the pool stays in the mid-eighties. Positively delightful for evening swims. I have recently discovered if I run in the water, my waterproof Fitbit actually counts the steps. Another way to reach my step goal while moving other muscles as I work to keep myself afloat.

Engaging my teenage daughter in swimming races helps keep me moving toward my lean and strong goal. All the while, helping my body regulate itself. Thereby keeping me calmer and empowered when triggered. Creating this sanctuary as part of our home was purposeful as I have utilized it often when needing grounding. From placing my hand on our sturdy maple tree to digging my hands into the soil while I garden or just sitting quietly while practicing mindfulness exercises. It all helps me keep those C-PTSD symptoms in check.

I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded.

Gym

Joining a new gym which recently opened close to our home was a family venture. We toured it together and made a commitment to our health as a group effort. We even signed up with a personal trainer just to assess our individual needs and discover ways we could kick-start ourselves into healthier choices.

I love the water yoga classes in the warm-water pool, although I have yet to attempt the cold-water lap pool. I think I’m a bit too spoiled by our sun-kissed water at home. I am trying out new exercise classes such as Pilates and a kick-ass Metabolic Strength session. Yoga is always a perk, as well. I’m looking forward to trying Zumba again, too.

A sampling of available classes at our local gym include: group cycling, cardio muscle, cardio kickboxing, TRX circuit, Barre circuit, various yoga choices, aqua arthritis, core cardio in the pool, and many more. Plus, I try to warm up on the stair stepper, rowing machine, or treadmill. Our trainer taught us about the medicine ball, balance balls, weight machines, free weights, and more. I love the idea of strengthening my body.

My favorite activity, however, has to be my almost daily treks to the track with our daughter. I love, love, love the fact that this kiddo comes to me every day and asks, “Can we go to the track and then shoot hoops in the gym?” How cool is that? I get to hang out with my thirteen-year-old and compete with her for steps on our Fitbits then help her with basketball drills as we continue working up a sweat in the air-conditioned gym.

I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated.

(And teaching this girl to feel strong, too.)

Biking

I had an old beat up mountain bike with tires that deflated once a week. It served me well when my older kids were little. How many times I attached their carrier to the back of that bike and took them on riding adventures through campgrounds and our neighborhood streets.

Last year I decided it was time to treat myself to a new ride! So I actually went test-driving new bikes. We have a little shop a few miles from my office that touts themselves as one of the oldest bicycle shops in the United States. Pretty cool.

They were quite patient with me as I took one by one by one out for a spin. Then I saw THE one. I had to have it. Not because of the price. Or the design. Or the speed. Or the accessories. Why? Because of the color. Ha! This mint green bike made me feel like I was back on my favorite island, cruising along under the droopy Spanish Moss. It is the cutest bike I’ve ever seen. I actually smiled at it this morning as I hopped into my car to head off to work.

We have a bike trail close by that stretches seventy miles. Not that I’ve ever ridden the entire length of it. Although I did train for a half-marathon on it and walked 13.2 miles of it back in 2010. It’s a beautiful trail surrounded by trees and rivers and quiet neighborhoods. It even runs through the fun little city of Loveland, Ohio, lined with breweries, shops, and restaurants along that stretch.

The joy I find in biking is that it gives me the ability to move faster than my fifty-something-year-old legs can travel on their own. The biking wind tickles my skin and I can’t help but smiles as I glide along the trail.

However, I also am quite mindful in my rides. I stumbled upon the sweetest little snail attempting to make his way across the hot asphalt a few weeks ago. I stopped to find a leaf, let him slooooooowly climb on board, then moved him off into the woods to cool off. I think he winked a thank you my way.

I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated. I am happy.

Standing Desk

I promised I would loop back around on this one. I am standing at mine in my home office (a.k.a. sacred writing space) right now. When I take a moment to contemplate an idea or search my brain for a word, I swing my hips back and forth, letting my arms move in rhythm. More heart rate, more muscle tone, more steps registered. Leaner and stronger. Calmer and more grounded.

There’s the blessing of being surrounded by my meditative music, the scent of an iced almond chai candle burning, and lots of angel paintings and figurines smiling at me as I move in this space.

Research shows the benefits of standing desks to be: lowering health risks, increasing energy, and improve productivity, among other positive results. See the article 7 Benefits of a Standing Desk. I know, for myself, my hip pain from sitting for prolonged periods of time (a drawback of being a writer, podcaster, and business owner) has been reduced drastically since I started using a standing desk.

Plus, when I’m already standing, if a great song comes on my 80’s station on Pandora, I can break right into dance. Hopefully I’m not scaring the neighbors too much with my disco moves.

I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated. I am happy. I am a dancing machine.

I wish you peace along your healing journey. I hope you find your positive affirmations that keep you motivated and moving. If you want to borrow mine, just remember . . . you are lean, you are strong, you are grounded, you are motivated, you are happy, and you are a dancing machine!

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