This article reprinted courtesy of DocMJ Ohio. To get your Ohio medical marijuana card, go to DocMJ.com.

It’s April and we’re recognizing Stress Awareness Month by helping Ohio medical marijuana patients who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) learn some strategies for coping with the condition. Patients with untreated chronic PTSD stress can develop mental health problems, but that’s not all. It makes them more susceptible to physical ailments, too. Stress can cause headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. 

Cannabis can help patients manage the symptoms of PTSD, but it’s only one tool in the arsenal that patients have in battling this disease. Here are some important ways to decrease your stress in various situations you might encounter as you learn to live with your PTSD diagnosis.

1. Recognize the difference between good stress and bad stress.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some amount of stress is necessary to our lives. The butterflies that you get in your belly the night before a big event often provide the necessary motivation needed to focus, prepare, or perform your best. This is the “good” kind of stress that can even be life-saving in some situations. 

But not all stress moves us to greatness or keeps us safe from harm. Some forms of stress can make us mentally or physically ill. When it’s the “bad” kind of stress, you may experience symptoms like chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing, exhaustion or trouble sleeping, muscle tension or jaw clenching. Heightened activation of the stress response causes physical damage to the body over time and can lead to serious health complications.

2. Recognize your triggers.

Triggers of PTSD for some patients include sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts that remind them of the traumatic event. Some PTSD triggers are obvious, such as witnessing another violent event or reliving the past traumatic event through a vivid nightmare. Other triggers can be more subtle. 

It often helps to examine what’s got you so stressed out in the first place. It may not surprise you that a recent survey identified that the main stressors for most people are money, work, family, economic outlook and relationships. Even well-adjusted individuals can struggle to manage  multiple stressors on a daily basis, someone with PTSD may not be able to process these emotions in a healthy manner and develop destructive coping behaviors. 

In rare instances, a person experiencing a PTSD episode has dissociative states that last from a few seconds to several hours. During these episodes, a traumatic event feels as if it’s being relived. The patient behaves as though they are experiencing a traumatic event at that moment even though they are safe and sound elsewhere. This type of intense psychological distress occurs when a patient is exposed to triggering events that remind them of the traumatic event they experienced.

Feeling a PTSD episode coming on? Relaxation techniques can ease symptoms of PTSD when they crop up. Meditation has been shown to be helpful for many PTSD patients. Other techniques that can help calm the mind and body include tai chi, deep breathing exercises, massage, and yoga. 

3. Pay closer attention to your diet.

By taking good care of your health, you’ll have a better chance of responding to stress in appropriate ways. Pay attention to every substance you’re putting into your body when you’re feeling anxiety creeping up. 

Eat a balanced diet rich in foods that are known for their stress-relieving properties. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts have been shown to boost your mood. Researchers at Louisiana State University recently discovered a connection between blueberries and lowering PTSD symptoms. Blueberries are thought to naturally increase levels of serotonin in the brain, effectively bringing relief from PTSD.

4. Change your beverage choices. 

You might also consider cutting out the second cup of coffee. Caffeine can improve your mood temporarily, but actually interrupts your sleep cycle and can make you feel groggy, anxious, and on-edge as you sip it throughout the day. 

Alcohol should also be avoided. Because it’s a depressant, just a couple of glasses of wine might at first seem to relax you, but it can exacerbate your stress by negatively affecting your mood. Instead, stick to drinking lots of water and perhaps some chamomile tea to help you relax. (Garnish with blueberries?)

5. Take mental health self-care steps to help you manage stress. 

When it comes to watching your health, make sure that includes taking self-care steps for your mental health, too. Surround yourself with friends and family who are encouraging, keep you calm, make you happy, and provide emotional support. Consider ways that you might reduce or eliminate your contact with individuals who trigger you. 

You may also benefit from individual or group therapy to help you process your trauma in a safe, accepting setting. Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep each night are also important steps you can take to reduce the chance that your daily stressors will turn into a PTSD episode. 

Cannabis and Your Stress Response 

Cannabis can be an important tool for helping manage the symptoms of PTSD. For many PTSD sufferers, they report cannabis helps them practice gratitude and develop a more positive outlook. But science is learning more about why and how cannabis works to treat PTSD effectively.

Research suggests that patients with PTSD have an abundance of cannabinoid receptors but aren’t producing enough endogenous cannabinoids to lock into them. By supplementing the body with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, researchers think some brain processes might be able to be rebooted and restart functioning normally.

Other recent medical studies shed further light on how cannabis may help treat PTSD. One study found that cannabis users were able to reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of your brain that handles your response to threats. The other study suggested that the plant’s cannabinoids might help erase traumatic memories. 

To learn more about how cannabis can help you manage the symptoms of your PTSD, reach out to MedicateOH today at medicateOh@gmail.com

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