Flashback – Practical ways to help
Here in this post, we are going to share some practical ways to help sooth ourselves and bring us through a flashback.
Remembering that you are an ‘adult’ self-available for comfort, protection, and grounding. The extreme feelings and body sensations occurring are so frightening because they are not related to the reality of the present and often seem to come from out of the blue. Tell yourself you are having a flashback – what’s happening is not happening now, you are safe. Remind yourself that the worst is over.
When we get frightened we stop normal breathing. As a result, our body begins to panic because we haven’t got enough oxygen. When we breathe deeply enough, a lot of panic feelings can decrease. Breathe from your diaphragm – an easier way to know-how is to breathe through your nose and out through your mouth but from your stomach, not your chest – practice makes perfect!
Be kind to yourself.
Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a small child. For example “You are a good person going through a hard time. You’ll get through this.” Think of the people you love, your favorite TV program, remember inspiring songs, films, words, or pray. Think of things you are looking forward to. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or soft toy, go to bed or sit in a cupboard… anything that you can do to make yourself feel safe. Know that you are in control and the person you are today can help keep the person then safe. Say a safety statement. ‘My name is _________; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not the past. I am located in _____________ the date is _____________.
When out and about, stimulating your sense of sight can be the most useful way to ground yourself.
Take an inventory of what you can see, where you are standing, what you are sitting on, what color the walls are, and keep repeating these. Noticing your immediate environment can help you reconnect with the present. Avoid negativity and just say what you see (no “I don’t like the wall color”).
You may need to be alone or you may want someone near you. Find the right process that works for you (you don’t need to stick to the ‘rules and you can change these as you need to.
Stimulate all your senses
This can help jolt you back into the present moment. Turn on loud music (sound); hold a piece of ice so you can draw your attention to the coldness of it (touch); smell something strong like mint (smell); bite into something sharp like a lemon (taste); try and notice everything around you (sight).
If you are wakened by a flashback, also known as a ‘night terror’, try to write it down, then go and have something warm to drink, watch some TV, listen to music or do something else that you find relaxing. It’s often best not to try and sleep until you have been able to relax for a while.
If you start experiencing a flashback while having sex with your partner you can stop and take time to relax. It’s OK to take time out from the sexual side of your relationship to work through these memories if you need to. Your partner should respect your choice and support you.
Try to think of “types of dogs”, “jazz musicians”, “states that begin with “A”, “cars”, “TV shows”, “writers”, “sports”, “songs”, “European cities.” If you have regressed to a younger age (e.g. eight years old), you can slowly work your way back up (e.g. “I’m now nine”; “I’m now 10”; “I’m now 11”…) until you are back to your current age. Count to 10 or say the alphabet very slowly.
Describe something you know how to deal with in great detail – “Find my car keys, decide where I am going, unlock the car door…“.
Push your heels into the floor – literally “grounding” them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself that you are connected to the ground. Walk slowly, noticing each footstep, saying “left,” “right” with each step.
Carry a ground object in your pocket
a small object (a small rock, clay, ring, piece of cloth, or yarn) that you can touch whenever you feel triggered.
Don’t blame yourself if this isn’t a quick process.
Flashbacks can take a long time to come through and stop. It’s ok – keep going. Practicing grounding strategies when you are not experiencing a flashback means they will be easier to implement when you are. Treat yourself – you’ve worked hard! Remember this is all a normal part of healing.
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