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Coping with Flashbacks

Coping with Flashbacks

When you've been through something that felt very scary, flashbacks are your brain’s way of trying to figure it all out.

Memories can come back as feelings, thoughts or a sense of reliving what happened. While your brain is trying to be helpful, these flashbacks can be scary and overwhelming. 


Here are some ways to deal with them; some might work for you and not others – just see what works best for you.

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  • Flashbacks are normal. Tell yourself you are having a flashback and that it’s okay and very normal if you’ve gone through something very hard. You are not crazy – this is happening because your brain is trying to figure things out to protect you moving forward.
     
  • Remind yourself that the worst is over. The things you are experiencing are in the past and are not happening today.
     
  • Get yourself back in the present. Remember mindfulness. Use your 5 senses and try these:
    • Stomp your feet or grind them on the floor to remember where you are now.
    • Look around the room. Notice colours, shapes and things.
    • Touch your skin, clothes, push your feet into the floor, feel your weight against your chair.
    • Listen to the sounds around you like your breath, cars, birds or appliances.
       
  • Breathe deeply and slow. Inhale through your nose and deeply down to your belly, put your hand there and focus on slowing down your breath. Count 1 to 5 as you breathe. When we get scared, we breathe really fast and shallow which causes our body to panic. Slowing our breath down will stop the panic.
     
  • Find your boundaries. During a flashback we can lose the sense of where we end and where the world begins. Rub your skin and feel your edges, your boundary. Wrap yourself in blankets, hug a pillow or a soft toy, or go to bed – anything you can do to feel safe.
     
  • Talk to the younger self in you and tell her she’s OK. We still carry a younger self in us, and sometimes she’s the one experiencing these scary memories. Care for your younger self, tell her that she’s not alone, she’s not in danger anymore and you will help her get through this.
     
  • Memory Games. Try remembering lyrics to a song, or remembering the words to your favourite poem. This will help distract your mind and interrupt the flashback. This works well for flashbacks that involve sound.
     
  • Try ice cubes or cold water. Ice cubes on your skin or splashing your face with cold water will help activate a natural body reflex that will help your body lower its heart rate, which helps counter the panic.
     
  • Take it easy after a flashback. Flashbacks are powerful experiences and you may not be able to do any of these things in the moment they are happening, but they can also be helpful in calming you afterwards. Take time to look after yourself – have a warm shower, a warm drink, play some soothing music, do something you enjoy.
     
  • Get support. Let people close to you know about flashbacks so they can help you when it’s happening, like holding you, talking to you and helping you come back to the present. You do not have to do this alone.
 
“Not easy, as we all know, to cope and carry on when intense moments of the past overwhelm us. We need a ‘To Do’ list for interrupting the flow; a list of strategies to reconnect us to the present moment.”
— Michele Rosenthal (Blogger)

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Want to learn more about how to deal with Flashbacks? Check out these links.



Empower >  my heart & mind > Coping with Flashbacks

Mindfulness

Mindfulness