How I’m Going to Continue Beating My PTSD in 2021
It took 30-years for my PTSD to be diagnosed. I was completely surprised but that diagnosis explained so much about my behavior and why participation sports have been so important to me.
PTSD Defense Tools
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD is most often associated with events experienced during wartime but any number of traumatic events can trigger PTSD.
Mastering PTSD involves dealing with mood and anxiety issues over a long period of time.
PTSD symptoms generally don’t show up right away. For example, a Veteran who witnessed horrific events in wartime is unlikely to wake up the next day and display symptoms of PTSD or have a sudden fear of going out on the battlefield. It may be weeks or months later after he or she believes they have healed and is over what happened to them.
The sudden onset of the symptoms associated with PTSD may leave them feeling shocked and confused. If the symptoms are gradual they may be missed altogether until worsen and begin to affect the person’s life.
Veteran Administration (VA) research clearly shows that exercise activity can lessen the tensions that can lead to depression and, potentially, suicidal thoughts. While I never experienced suicidal thoughts, some of PTSD’s more subtle symptoms definitely have influenced my life since my military service.
Running and cycling have been constant friends since my days in the Pentagon, following my field service. I didn’t know why they were so important but I did subconsciously understand doing either one of them on a daily basis eased my tensions and made inter-personal interactions much easier. After my official PTSD diagnosis, daily exercise became essential.
Here’s what I learned about MY PTSD . . .
- Physical exercise dramatically reduces my tensions and anxiety
- Being outside is emotionally uplifting regardless of the weather conditions
- Interaction with other people in a neutral (safe) environment is a blessing – think group cycling rides
- It’s critical to know the PTSD symptoms and where to find support
My 2021 PTSD Battle Plan
I’m a retired Army guy so I think in terms of beating the enemy. In this case, the enemy is PTSD.
I love bicycling and walking. Since 2003, I have ridden 36,295.31 miles – an average of just over 2,000 miles a year – and those have been wonderful hours and miles outside. The result? A much calmer, fit, and healthy me.
Strava.com and Zwift.com are homes to great cycling communities. I’ve been tracking my mileage on Strava for over six years and I have a group of cyclists all over the world that I follow. You can connect with me on Strava by searching for Robert Hess. My Zwift indoor cycling app lets me ride in real-time with cyclists from all over the world.
Cycling has such great potential for mitigating PTSD symptoms we have created a website to connect veterans. The Vets Riding for Vets mission is raising awareness of PTSD and its potential for damaging lives and providing an international home for military veteran cyclists around the world – Veterans helping Veterans. Visit us at VetsRidingForVets.
Riding takes my mind away from cancer and work-related stress and lets me enjoy the scenery and the world around me. My 2021 goal is 2,500 miles and 360 active* days.
My exercise element number two is yoga. Until COVID-19, My yoga program was one 90-minute class every Saturday morning followed by breakfast with my wife. It was a great routine. COVID19 threw me for a temporary loop until I connected with an Internet program. Now, it’s Saturday morning yoga in the family room. Not quite the same, but good enough until in-person group sessions are safe again.
Finally, my weights routine. I was hitting the gym twice a week but COVID-19 put a halt to that, so I bought a jump rope, an inexpensive weight bench, and pulled out my old dumbells and kettlebell and now my patio is my gym. It’s actually working well and the environment benefits from 40 fewer miles driven per month.
My 2021 PTSD Mental Plan
Our mental state is just as important as exercise. COVID-19 has increased dramatically the level of stress individually and in our society overall. The final element of my 2021 PTSD Battle Plan is getting better control of my mental stress. I’ll be integrating more meditation into my schedule. I use the iPhone Muse app and headband but there are much less expensive options, such as Calm, available. Check those options at the following link:
COVID-19 Changes to My PTSD Battle Plan I’ll Continue in 2021
No one expected the Covid-19 virus and the changes it has brought to how we live. I’m in the 60+ category, so my wife and I have been very careful about where we go. Based on the information available in January 2021, it likely will be June or July before most of us are vaccinated so I plan to continue my mostly inside plan until then.
My 2021 Covid-19 PTSD Control Plan:
- Cycling: Zwift.com virtual cycling. Staying at home means that I’ve switched to indoor bicycle riding on my trainer and Zwift set up. Riding inside is much different than outdoors but the Zwift community is a great help. Unless I’m really trying to kill it for HITT exercise, I simply cruise along and catch up on TED talks on my iPad: Ted.com.
- Yoga: At least twice weekly yoga with Internet classes from Yoga Studio.
- Meditation: A daily 10-minute morning meditation to ease the stress from watching the news.
- Weight training: Three cross-fit sessions each week on the patio.
What’s Your 2021 PTSD Battle Plan?
If you’re a PTSD survivor like me, concern about depression is likely always in the back of your mind. There’s no guarantee that my PTSD battle plan will be 100% effective but it gives me a sense of control, along with knowing that I’m putting my body and mind in the best possible shape.
I would love to hear about your PTSD battle plan and we’ll post it here on the website if you choose to share.
Join Me In 2021
Zwift Virtual Cycling
If you’re a “Zwifter,” connect with me on Zwift @ Robert Hess.
Best wishes for 2021. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to plan your own 2021 PTSD battle plan and then share the results to help others.
US Army (R)