Invisible Injuries- Mental health ambassadors

S01 - Dealing with flashbacks 05

October 22, 2021

Two volunteer fire fighters overlooking an out of control raging fire

Flashbacks which are normal, are recollections from the past. They may be pictures, sounds, smells or feelings or the the lack of them (a kind of numbness). Unless we deal with them effectively as they arise, flashbacks can cause us to feel trapped, powerless, and/or out of control. We may feel at the mercy of our experiences. This need not happen with the following techniques.

Confront the flashback, head on – If, on this occasion you’ve not succeeded in identifying and dealing successfully with the trigger, say to yourself the following: “Okay, so this is the flashback, but I know deep down, the worst is over because the feeling and sensations I’m having are in the past. I’m here now, in the present, so let’s get the control back!”
 Then do this:
  • Pinch yourself, or press one foot on top of the other
  • Breathe normally, over emphasising the out-breaths and in-breaths.
  • Breathe on the out-breath to the count of 11; and on each in-breath to the count of 7
  • Re-establish yourself in the present by using the 5 senses. I can see 5 things, I can hear 5 things, I can feel 5 things, I can taste or smell 5 things.
How to use for best results –“horses for courses” applies. Some might find one tool or technique helpful, others will experiment with another that proves helpful. All are available to try and it’s often about finding “what works”.
 *Reprinted with permission 2020