Strategies for Managing Flashbacks
~Tell yourself “I am having a flashback”
~Center yourself: Centering focuses on your internal being “I am here”. Putting your hand on your chest can help with this as it releases oxytocin and decreases cortisol levels. This is simple, yet very impactful.
~Ground yourself: Grounding focuses on your external being “I am here”. The 5,4,3,2,1 technique is useful for this. This technique will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations. Take a deep belly breath to begin.
5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see a cup, I see the picture frame, I see a pencil, I see the picture on the wall.
4 – FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.
3 – LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.
2 – SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favorite smells.
1 – TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.
Take another deep belly breath to end.
~Body Scan: Start by focusing your attention at the top of your head and slowly move down your body. Make sure to stop at every major intersection, from the head, face, neck, shoulders, fingers, and so on. Is your jaw sore? Your neck or shoulders tight or hunched? Is there pain in your back or hips? Where else might you feel discomfort or tension in your body? Stop and investigate the tension: it’s location, it’s texture (tight, hot, cold, piercing, throbbing, etc.), and see if you can direct your breathing to that location in order to dissipate some of the stress.
~Eat or drink something. Notice the flavour and texture. Is it bitter, sweet, tannic, savory? What kind of mouthfeel does it have: crunchy, smooth, rough, chewy, delicate, dense, watery, velvety?
~Change your body temperature to change your autonomic nervous system. Use ice to take advantage of your “dive reflex” – hold breath for a few seconds, hold something cold like a cold glass of water/snowball/icepack, OR warm your body to relax by holding a warm mug of tea, soaking in a warm bath, or putting your feet in warm water
~Identify what would make you feel safer. This might be wrapping yourself in a blanket or moving into a room or vehicle to be alone