Start Healing From Complex PTSD Like This —3 Free Tools You Can Use Today

Healing from complex PTSD with meditation

If you’re healing from complex ptsd – and you don’t even know where to start – I’m going to share with you three tools you can start today. Plus theres an extra bonus one chucked in at the end too.

No need to overwhelm yourself or wait for the perfect moment. Let’s get started right now and you’ll soon see how possible it is.

Healing from complex PTSD means learning how to live with it. And not letting the symptoms, like flashbacks or anxiety, rule your life anymore. It means living a fulfilling life despite what’s happened to you.

Easier said than done, eh! 😅

It’s why they call it a process because there’s a few steps involved before you’re healed.

First, you need to understand what complex PTSD is.

Understanding Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD, isn’t your regular post-traumatic stress disorder; it’s the extra spicy version. And it happens because of repetitive exposure. So not a one off car crash. But if you were to see a car crash happen everyday.

Extreme example, I know. But it’s the best way to help you understand the difference between PTSD and CPTSD.

It’s things like childhood abuse, toxic relationships. Or even being stuck in a war zone that causes Complex PTSD. 

So it’s when trauma sticks around for the long haul. Like if a narcissist gaslighted you for years. Your crippling self doubt would overstay its welcome —that’s CPTSD. It’s not just the flashbacks and nightmares we associate with PTSD. But a whole buffet of emotional, cognitive, and relational difficulties.

We’re talking non-stop feelings of fear, shame, and worthlessness. Mood swings that make your head spin. Feeling like you’re close to a meltdown even with the smallest stressors. And all these symptoms mess with your self-identity. They twist your view of yourself and the world around you. 

And it can turn your daily life into chaos. Relationships crumble, work suffers, and your general well-being takes a nosedive. It’s as if you’re constantly depressed and anxious until you get a CPTSD diagnosis.

When you’re hurt repeatedly – by someone you once trusted – it’s no wonder that relationships become daunting. And you’ve got to relearn how to trust again. How to form healthy connections and how to have your needs met. Your self-esteem takes such a hit, that even simple tasks now feel impossible.

Over time, you begin to normalise these feelings, merely coping with life instead of actually living it. So you’ve got to recognise what’s causing your symptoms first, known as:

Complex PTSD Triggers

Basically any reminders of your past trauma, like:

👩🏽‍🤝‍👩🏼 People – linked to the person who had the control over you

📍 Places – associated to the trauma

📦 Things – reminding you of the trauma

🤬 Situations – that may induce uncontrollable emotions. e.g. arguments

🚧 Boundaries – having them pushed or tested

💥 Senses – sensitive to noises (loud bangs) or intense visuals (flashing lights)

📆 Dates – memorable dates, like anniversaries, birthdays

🛌 Dreams – nightmares where you relive the trauma

🤝 Connections – difficulty trusting new people

And your response to a trigger is either:

Physical:

🔹 Flashbacks of memories

🔹 Difficulty sleeping

🔹 Hypersensitivity to your surroundings

🔹 Bodily symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension)

🔹 Problems remembering both good and bad memories

🔹 Avoiding social situations, people, or places

🔹 Not feeling safe in your relationships

🔹 Using coping methods to self soothe (like drugs and alcohol)

OR

Emotional:

🔸 Intrusive thoughts

🔸 Depressed, self-blaming, and ashamed feelings

🔸 Extreme interchanging emotional responses

🔸 Fear and panic that surge out of nowhere

🔸 Disconnected and isolated from your network

🔸 Fixation on the people associated with the trauma

🔸 Altered views

An example would be difficulty sleeping because of a dream you had about your ex narc.

So, the dream, triggered a physical reaction from you.

And the more exposed you are to your triggers, the less safe you’ll feel in your body. So you need to understand what your triggers are and how they impact you. It’s the first step to managing your symptoms and finding the right support. 

So whilst you’re still wearing your week old pyjamas (no judgement here). How about we try and brighten up your sparkle again? 

Tools for Healing From Complex PTSD

After experiencing trauma, your nervous system takes a bit of a beating. Because up until now, you’ve been used to living in a hectic state of fight, flight, or freeze. Which is mentally exhausting, right?

Every time you replay the past, you relive the same feelings of tension attached to the memories. It’s stripping away your control over your emotions. And the challenge of healing, is getting that back. Because we’re not taught how to process that stress and restore calm. But there are tools that can help with that.

Tool #1 for Healing from Complex PTSD: Write to Yourself 📝

Writing can relieve your innermost thoughts. Like, have you ever written a letter you didn’t send? Where the act of writing was enough to get something off your chest?

It’s a private release that no one else has to see. So there’s no worry of judgement, it’s just a place to pour your thoughts onto and see what comes up.

Whether you’re angry or sad at the time it doesn’t matter. You’re processing the current state of your mind. And that can change when you’ve had time to reflect.

Writing gives you pause for thought. It’s better to write hateful things down then to say them in the heat of the moment. Try and understand why and how you felt that way. Gain perspective of your emotions before acting on impulse.

Slowing down helps you see all angles. It creates space for your feelings and time to question what you could do differently. It lets you understand your reality and see the causes of your suffering.

Don’t know where to start with journalling?

Here’s a some ideas you can download and keep.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many journal prompts. So this download includes the ones you need to process your trauma and gain perspective over what happened. It also has a couple of lists for you to write that’ll be useful for you to refer back to – especially when you’re having moments of doubts.

Tool #2 for Healing from Complex PTSD: Try Meditating 🧘🏽‍♀️

I don’t know what it is about meditation. But it’s one of those things that everyone expects to be good at right away. And if you’re not successful after the first go, you’ll hear people claim “it doesn’t work”.

Yet if we gave it the same chance as we did learning a musical instrument, perhaps we’d benefit from it?

What you’ve got to understand about an untrained mind, is that it’s constantly flooded with thoughts. Thoughts are what the mind knows best. So when you come to a sudden stop and expect your mind to silence, it’s just not going to happen.

And that right there should be your incentive to continue. To keep trying again until it works. Not to stop before its even had a chance to work. It’s the art of staying still and quiet without getting angry at yourself. And it’s putting time aside to practice it everyday. 

It’s accepting that it’s ok to be bad at something you don’t know yet. Because you can’t go from 0 to 100 in anything new you try. You’ll find meditation a struggle in the beginning. But if you keep coming back to it, it’ll eventually get easier. 

I’ll give you four reasons to try it:

1. Let go of stress, the past and the future

Meditation helps focus on the moment at hand. So you’re not fearing something bad happening. And you’re not stuck in your past trauma. You’re busy trying to concentrate on the now, like your breathing patterns.

It helps you become aware of the stress you cause yourself and you learn to let go. Because it creates room for processing your thoughts and feelings. Space to break free from repetitive patterns and space for reflection.

2. Calm the mind and increase your creativity

When you give yourself time to stop and think clearly, your mind becomes sharper. You’re able to make quicker connections and foster your creativity. This newfound clarity also enhances your relationships and opens you up to the beauty of life.

3. Slow down and self reflect

Meditation helps us recognise that our ego is not a permanent fixture. So you learn to navigate the world with less attachment and control. You slow down, observe your reactions, and consider different views. It gives you time to reflect thoughtfully rather than reacting impulsively.

4. It teaches you patience

Just like building muscles or learning a new language, it takes time and effort to see results. But it’s an investment that yields incredible internal transformation. It shapes the way we perceive the world and how we communicate with others.

The benefits you’ll reap from it, will be an asset to your life. But you have to give it time for it to work, and to see the results.

Meditation clearly offers a powerful tool for self-awareness and transformation. It lets us understand reality, stop our suffering, and cultivate a deep connection with ourselves and the world. I can’t think of a cheaper tool to invest in your healing from complex PTSD – can you?

Give this meditation a go

If you’re like me, your worry might hit you at night. So you need a tool to help with that.

This 4-7-8 breathing meditation is something I like to concentrate on. I do it when I’m trying to get to sleep, before my anxiety has a chance to needle its way in. It’s also a good one to remember if you ever find yourself awake in the middle of the night.

If you want an app for meditation, Insight Timer is the perfect partner! It’s got so many free meditations on there and you can even track your daily progress.

Tool #3 for Healing from Complex PTSD: Stretch the Pain Away With Yoga 🧎‍♀️


“Yoga significantly improved arousal problems in PTSD and dramatically improved our subjects relationships to their bodies”

— Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

There’s a reason why so much suffering ends with “… and then I found yoga”.

It’s a powerful practice that combines postures, stretching and breathing. And its influence goes beyond the mat. The dance between tension and relaxation is oh-so-relevant to our daily lives.

Tension and Relaxation

Trauma makes you feel stuck, like you’ll never get better. But yoga teaches you that even though a posture causes tension, long exhales will relax you into the pose more. So you’re learning how to calm stress.

You’re learning that breathing can soothe your nervous system. So the next time alarm bells are ringing in your head, you’ll recognise that it’s not a war zone anymore. And you’ll know how to relax your body.

Breath and Body Awareness

Because yoga encourages you to pay attention to your body. It asks you to notice how poses feel. Does exhaling allow you to go deeper into a posture? Can you direct the breath to your stomach to ease anxiety?

You’re experimenting with your breath and the results it gives. So that leg in high lunge that won’t stop shaking, perhaps you breathe into the discomfort more, see if it stills the leg.

“Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts” (The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk). You learn you can control your body through breathing and movement. You’ll see that remembering your overwhelming trauma can be diffused with a few breaths.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Yoga has also been found to change your HRV (heart rate variability).

Sounds more complicated than it is. It basically measures the balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

So your fight or flight response against your calming response. And the greater the fluctuations, the better. Because it shows your nervous systems are working well together to keep you in check.

If you’ve got PTSD, your breathing tends to be quick and shallow; your heart beats faster. So your HRV wouldn’t be good compared to a well regulated person. A higher HRV would indicate a heart that’s more adaptable to stress:

So a beating heart, the sympathetic nervous system, would sync up nicely with slowing the heart rate down, with the parasympathetic nervous system.

And this is what the practice of yoga mimics. It shows you a way to gain control over your body as it responds to stress. Encouraging you to observe your body and regulate your emotions – something survivors of CPTSD are disconnected from.

Want to try yoga right now?

Here’s a great YouTube playlist from Sarah Beth Yoga. There’s over 70 videos to choose from; I really like her video for 10 minute Bedtime Yoga for Stress & Anxiety.

*BONUS* Tool #4 for Healing from Complex PTSD: Find a Therapist 👩‍⚕️

Now this tool ain’t free (and neither’s their service)!

But if you can afford one, a therapist will help you to make sense of your trauma and reduce its impact on your life. And over time, you’ll begin to feel more grounded and at home in your body.

Therapy helps you question your behaviour and thoughts. It provides a safe haven for you to be open and honest with yourself. Whilst also teaching you some new skills to help manage future angst. It’s all about rewiring those circuits and finding your way back to physical and emotional safety.

Types of Therapy Approaches for Complex PTSD

Choosing a therapist is a collaborative process. While you consider their expertise, the therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan. One that best aligns with your goals and needs. 

But it’s good to know a bit about each approach for complex PTSD before you go looking for a therapist. You can choose any of the following options:

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This focuses on identifying negative thoughts associated to the trauma. And then reframing your thinking patterns to develop healthier coping strategies. It works by gradually exposing your triggers in a safe and controlled manner. So you’re essentially correcting your bad memories.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

A mindful talk therapy based on CBT. It offers practical skills to regulate intense emotions and manage distress. So you can begin to accept yourself and start making positive changes in your life.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This technique involves your eyes following the movement of a finger as you discuss the memory of your trauma. It sounds strange but EMDR has had a lot of success. It aims to desensitise your distressing memories and reduce their impact. But without explaining why you feel upset.

Group Therapy

AKA communal healing! So providing a supportive community for people with similar experiences. A place to share your stories and gain insights from one another. Somewhere you can feel like you belong, by connecting with others who know your pain.

Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS)

IFS is about exploring and understanding the different parts of yourself. And helping them work together harmoniously to promote healing. The underlying belief of IFS is that trauma disrupts this system, causing our different parts to clash.

Somatic Experiencing (SE)

Delves into the wisdom of your body. It focuses on releasing the physical and emotional tension held in your body as a result of trauma. SE helps restore a sense of safety and resilience by gentle exploration and awareness of bodily sensations.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Explores the unconscious patterns and unresolved conflicts that contribute to CPTSD. It works by bringing awareness to any underlying dynamics that could be the root cause of your trauma.

There’s a whole world of therapeutic techniques out there. And you need to explore which one works for you. Make sure if you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse recovery, that you look for a professional who specialises in that.

I’ll leave you with this…

There’s a lot to unpack when you’ve experienced trauma. And Im not saying “try one of these things and it’ll fix everything!” Because realistically, you’re going to need to try a bit of everything to see what works for you.

But you’ve got some tools you can start putting to use now, see if they help you.

Theres nothing worse than feeling like you’re stuck in all of your stress. So if you can find something that helps you to feel safe in your body, then its going to help you experience feeling calm as well.

Remember to keep an open mind when you’re trying something new. And if you find a tool that works, promise you’ll dedicate your time to practicing it. Because you’ll have a greater chance of succeeding if you do. Nothings going to work if you try it for a few weeks and give up. You need to be committed for the long haul when you’re healing from complex PTSD.

Figure out how to calm your mind, and then practice it as much as possible. Keep doing it over and over again and teach your brain the new neural pathways. Train your body to feel safe and you’ll get better at responding to your triggers.

I know a combination of meditating, therapy, writing, yoga and jiu jitsu helped me get better. But don’t just take my word for it. Experience it for yourself, and I know it’ll liberate you too. Because when your mind isn’t as stressed anymore, you’ll feel clearer and more in control.

So give me one good reason why you can’t do one of the above tools today?

***

References:

The Diary of a CEO, with Steven Bartlett – Yung Pueblo, EP255

Feel Better, Live More, with Dr Rangan Chaterjee – Dr Bessel van der Kolk, EP336

The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

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