What are some strategies for dealing with emotional flashbacks?

Feb 22, 2023
Emotional Flashbacks

What are some strategies for dealing with emotional flashbacks?

Emotional flashbacks can be very traumatic and debilitating, especially if they are not dealt with in a healthy way. In this article we will explore some strategies for dealing with emotional flashbacks, including recognizing the symptoms, understanding the triggers, and taking care of yourself both mentally and physically.

1. What is an emotional flashback and what are the symptoms?

If you have experienced an emotional flashback, it is important to understand that you are not alone and that there are ways to heal from the trauma. Healing is possible, but it takes time, patience, and self-compassion.  Remember:  "Healing takes time, it's not a race, but eventually you will get there."

An emotional flashback is a re-experiencing of a past trauma that can be triggered by anything in the present moment. The symptoms of an emotional flashback can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include:

- Intrusive thoughts or memories of the trauma
- Nightmares about the trauma
- Physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, or shaking
- Emotional symptoms such as anger, fear, or sadness
- Avoidance of people, places, or things that remind you of the trauma
- Negative changes in your thoughts or mood

2. What are some of the triggers that can cause emotional flashbacks?

There are many different things that can trigger an emotional flashback. Some common triggers include:

- Certain sounds, smells, or tastes
- Seeing something that reminds you of the trauma
- Being in a situation that is similar to the original trauma
- Having a strong emotional reaction to something

I once knew a woman who experienced emotional flashbacks every time she saw someone who resembled her abusive ex-boyfriend. She would become incredibly agitated, and sometimes even have panic attacks. She found it very difficult to be around anyone who had similar features to her ex, and would often avoid social situations altogether.

3. How to deal with emotional flashbacks when they occur

When an emotional flashback occurs, it is important to first recognize what is happening. This can be difficult if you are in the middle of the flashback, but it is important to try and take a step back and assess what is happening. Once you have recognized that you are having a flashback, there are a number of things you can do to deal with it in a healthy way.

Some of the things that may help include: 

- Grounding yourself in the present moment
- Taking some deep breaths
- Reminding yourself that the flashback is not actually happening right now
- Focusing on your surroundings
- Distracting yourself with something else 

"Jane" often experiences emotional flashbacks due to childhood sexual abuse. She recently had a flashback while grocery shopping. The sights, smells, and sounds of the grocery store triggered memories of abuse that she thought she had forgotten. Lisa was able to ground herself by focusing on her surroundings. She reminded herself that she was safe and that the abuse was not actually happening right now. She also took some deep breaths to calm herself down.

4. The importance of self-care in dealing with emotional flashbacks

Self-care is extremely important when dealing with emotional flashbacks. When we are triggered, it can be difficult to cope with on our own. That is why it is important to have a number of self-care strategies in place to help us when we are feeling overwhelmed. 

Some examples of self-care include:

- Taking a relaxing bath
- Listening to calming music
- Writing in a journal
- Spending time outdoors in nature
- Eating healthy foods

These are things that help us feel safe, nurtured, cared for, protected and loved. It is important to have a number of self-care strategies that we can turn to when we are feeling triggered.

5. The importance of seeking professional help

If you find that you are struggling to cope with your emotional flashbacks, it is important to seek professional help. This is something that I would highly recommend, as it can be difficult to deal with on our own. A therapist can help you understand your triggers and can provide you with tools and resources to help you deal with them in a healthy way.

If you are struggling with emotional flashbacks, please reach out for help. You don't have to go through this alone. There is help available, and you deserve to get the support that you need.

Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

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