You probably know that symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often include anxiety, unwanted memories, anger and avoidance. But did you know that meditation may be able to help? Meditative practices have been linked to decreases in hyperarousal, depression and insomnia.
One example of a meditative practice available through VA is the Mantram Repetition Program (MRP). Mantram repetition can be done anytime, anyplace and for any amount of time. It may be a good choice for Veterans who don’t see themselves sitting and meditating each day.
Veterans can use the tools associated with MRP before going to sleep, walking, waiting or even putting on a seat belt. MRP is also great for beginners who are interested in mindfulness practices.
“I’m trying to open up to people.”
For Veterans who experience challenges in socializing and establishing emotional connections with others, VA also offers programs in compassion meditation. This meditative practice focuses on enhancing Veterans’ sense of connection to other people and compassion for themselves and others.
“I was the kind of person that wouldn’t look or smile at people,” reported a Veteran who participated in a study of compassion meditation. “Now I try to be more tolerant and be friendlier. I’m trying to open up a little more to people I don’t know. I try not to be so judgmental and give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Compassion meditation and MRP offer new approaches for Veterans trying to manage symptoms of PTSD and related diagnoses. So do similar mind-body interventions available through VA. Meditative practices can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments. A mental health provider can help Veterans choose the approach that might be most helpful for addressing their needs.
“Took the edge off a stressful incident.”
“Mantram repetition provides more of a calming sensation than anything else,” said a Veteran who recently tried MRP. “Mantram repetition took the edge off the feelings that I had about a particularly stressful incident. It caused me to reflect on it more.”
While more research is needed to better understand the relationship between meditation, PTSD and depression, initial studies showed that meditation was well-received by Veterans. VA researchers recently examined more than 270 Veterans who participated in MRP and found that the practice lessened depression and other psychological symptoms.
MRP starts with participants learning the importance of a having a personal mantram and repeating it daily. The tools found on the MRP PsychArmor site include modules that can help Veterans engage with the helpful ways to make self-care important.
Through guided MRP, Veterans can discover:
- Ways to use MRP to slow down both the mind and the body, to turn attention toward emotional self-regulation, to manage symptoms and thus to relax.
- How to live with intention and set priorities.
- Ways to use monotasking – instead of multitasking – to focus on one thing at a time and help manage the symptoms of PTSD.
- When to use MRP to interrupt stress responses – even common spikes, like road rage.
Veterans are encouraged to speak with their VA care team to learn about the many mind-body approaches available through VA. Here’s more information about MRP.
To learn more about VA’s mental health offerings, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov.
Dr. Jill Bormann conducts clinical research for VA’s Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH).