When you have experienced trauma your memories are not processed properly which means that you might experience a flashback. A flashback is not like a normal memory but more like re-experiencing what happened. You might feel like it is actually happening again, as if you are back in that place with all the sounds, smells, and physical sensations of what happened. A flashback can be triggered by anything that reminds the part of your brain that reacts to danger (the amygdala) of what you experienced: a sound, a smell, a place, a person who looks like the person who hurt you. It is a scary thing to go through, but the young survivors we work with have given us some tips about how to manage them.
Tips for managing flashbacks:
- Doing things which stimulate your senses can remind your brain where it is in the here and now. This could be turning on your favourite band, spraying perfume, eating a mint or looking around you and naming everything you can see.
- Remind yourself that you are experiencing a flashback and you are safe. Try saying it out loud.
- Practice 7/11 breathing: breathe in for seven, and out for eleven. This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system to help your body feel calm.
- Do something physical to take yourself out of your mind and into your body: jumping up and down, going for a walk/run or stretching
- Try to work out what your triggers are: maybe take some notes about what was happening when you had a flashback and any sounds, smells or sensations that were going on. The more that you know what your triggers are, the more manageable they come.
- Give yourself time out after the flashback is over. Wrap yourself in a blanket, eat something comforting,