PTSD can be a condition that disables the affected person, leads them into depression and social isolation. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a major cause of suicide in veterans. At No Fallen Heroes we have dedicated ourselves to providing help for veterans who suffer from PTSD and are at risk of suicide. The range of options from intervention and treatment range as high as the use of psychedelic medicines as well as standard antidepressants and therapy. However, not all cases of PTSD are extreme and many times there are PTSD flashback self-care measures that the veteran can use to achieve relief.
Dealing with Flashbacks
Flashbacks are one of the hallmarks of PTSD. One moment you are in the here and now and the next you are back in a war zone surrounded by dying comrades. Many PTSD sufferers never really leave the horrors of war even though they have moved on to civilian life. The first line of defense against PTSD includes several self-care steps. The worst part of flashbacks is that they separate you from the reality of the world that you now live in. The steps we mention here are designed to bring a person back to present reality and away from reliving old trauma.
Flashback Self Care Step One
When a flashback hit it is typical to become frightened. The first thing to do is to focus on your breathing. Count to five over and over again. Repeat to yourself where you are and what you are doing in the present. Psychologists have discovered that simply focusing on breathing helps a person return to the here and now.
Carry an Object from Your Present Life
A flashback wants to take you back to relive past trauma. Like doing the breathing drill, carrying an object that is strongly connected to your present life will help bring you back out of the flashback to your current life. Touching, looking at and even smelling such an object will help overcome the strength of the damaged nerve pathways that cause flashbacks.
Tell Yourself That You Are Safe Over and Over Again
PTSD is not the result of a simple fright but of severe and repeated trauma. That trauma imprints itself on the fear center of the brain, the amygdala. Every time you experience a flashback your brain strengthens that fear connection. A practical way to fight this vicious cycle is to repeatedly say out loud that you are safe. Say out loud where you are, what you are doing in the present world, and that whatever triggered your flashback is not real or is not what caused your initial trauma. Don’t let your PTSD control how you think. You have a vote in how you feel and you can start by repeating over and over again that you are safe and no longer subject to the trauma that caused your flashbacks.
Comfort Yourself When You Are Having Flashbacks
There is a thing in psychology called a discriminative stimulus. A simple example is a stop light that tells us if we need to stop or can continue on our way. When a person gets flashbacks, it is often because they do not discriminate between the truly dangerous signals that preceded their military trauma and something relatively benign in normal life. Simply finding a comfortable place to sit, listening to a favorite tune, wrapping up in a warm blanket, or re-watching a favorite movie are all ways to return to your comfort zone and retreat from the stimuli that are likely to provoke a flashback. While you are doing this, make sure to do your breathing drill and repeatedly remind yourself that you are safe.
Ground Yourself to Protect from Flashbacks
When flashbacks are especially difficult to avoid or endure, do all of the drills that we mention and add one more. Talk out loud about what you see around you, how your life is today in the real world, what you think about, what you worry about, and how none of these things is what keeps intruding into your thoughts during flashbacks. The flashbacks make you remember, relive, and strengthen old trauma. By grounding yourself in the present over and over again you gradually weaken the nerve connections that cause flashbacks and hold you hostage to the past.
Take Notes in a Diary
What sets off your flashbacks? What is most effective in helping you cope. What is most effective in preventing them? Here is where a little compulsiveness can come in handy. Keep a diary of your flashbacks. Those who do this often realize what it is that tends to trigger their flashbacks and learn, therefore, to avoid them or even to be able to talk themselves through their flashbacks by inserting a here and now narrative that helps overcome the commonly overwhelming feelings that come with uncontrolled flashbacks.
Regain Control of Your Life with Self Care of Your PTSD
For many the worst part of PTSD and especially flashbacks is the perceived loss of control of their lives. If you are having flashbacks, tell someone. Seek help. Do this set of routines to help you regain control of your thoughts and your life.