Coping with Flashbacks Relaxation Script

This relaxation script is for coping with flashbacks. It can be used in the moment to help you to get through the experience and to help re-focus your mind on peaceful images. This script can also be used when you are feeling calm (and not experiencing any negative images) to help you relax and to memorize positive thoughts and images to use when needed.

Part of this relaxation exercise will guide you to imagine that the flashbacks are like images on a TV screen, so if you want to face the fearful thoughts, you can do so. If you do not feel ready to face the images, this script includes ways of orienting yourself to the present any time you need to.

Start by making yourself as physically comfortable as possible. You might want to sit or lie down. It can be helpful to wrap a blanket snugly around your shoulders, if you have one available. The even pressure can be calming.

The flashbacks you experience are truly frightening, but the images you have are not happening in the present. Even though flashbacks seem very real, they are only real in the past. They are not real right now.

Nothing dangerous is happening right now, even though it can feel like you are in danger.

You will get through this and you will be okay. You might not feel okay right now, but soon you will be feeling calm and relaxed.

Let’s take a few moments to breathe. Breathe slowly with me now as I count.

Breathe in… 2…3….4…hold…2….3…. exhale…2….3…4….5…

Breathe in… 2…3….4…hold…2….3…. exhale…2….3…4….5…

Breathe in… 2…3….4…hold…2….3…. exhale…2….3…4….5…

Keep breathing slowly like this. See how calm breathing can start to center you.

During flashbacks, your attention is completely on your internal world. Relaxation can be focused on your internal world too, but on positive sensations rather than negative ones.

Focus for the next few moments on your external environment instead of your internal one. First, look around at the room you are in. Notice the details here. See the surface you are on. If you are indoors, notice the walls and ceiling around you. See the colours around you.

Now rub your hands together. Feel the friction between your palms. Feel your hands warming up a little. As your hands are warming, they are also relaxing. Now place your hands at your sides, and just notice the warmth in your hands.

Feel the surface you are on. Feel your clothes against your body. If you did choose to wrap a blanket around your shoulders, feel the comforting pressure the blanket provides.

If it is difficult to keep your attention on your environment, you can help to return your attention to the present with some physical cues. Place your hands on your knees. Now pat your knees gently, and hear the sound of your hands tapping your knees. Feel the gentle pressure with each tap.

Now rub your hands together again, focusing your attention on this sensation.

You can even place your hands on your face, and allow a gentle, firm pressure on your cheeks to calm you.

Breathe slowly, calmly…. in… and out….. in…. out…. keep your breathing slow and regular.

Take a moment now to rub your hands together slowly while you breathe slowly. This calming motion can be a way to center yourself. As you continue this relaxation exercise, you can rub your hands together while breathing slowly. This can be a safe escape for you if the flashbacks get to be too much. You can take a break by rubbing your hands together and breathing slowly, any time you need to.

Now you can turn your attention to your thoughts. It’s okay if you experience flashbacks. I’ll be here to talk you through it. You have handled this before, and I know it is scary, but you can handle it now, too. You will get through this, and when it’s over, you will feel so much better.

Maybe you are experiencing flashbacks right now, or perhaps have been throughout this exercise. Maybe you have experienced flashbacks in the past, but are not at the moment.

If you feel ready, it’s okay to face those thoughts right now. If the images get too real, remember to take a break by rubbing your hands together and breathing slowly. This action will bring you back to the present, where you can remember that you will get through this and that the reality around you is neutral and safe.

I would like to take you mentally to a place of safety. Let these words guide you to a place where the flashbacks are like images on a television screen instead of part of reality. It may be frightening to watch, and at times it may seem real, but you know that the experience of flashbacks is only as real as the images on a screen. You may have visual pictures, sounds, or physical feelings. Put them all on the screen in front of you, and you can observe them just like a movie.

This movie on the screen may be horrific, but it will be over soon. All you need to do right now is make yourself as comfortable as possible while the scary scenes pass. If you need to look away from the screen, it’s okay. You can close your eyes, or concentrate just on breathing, or do whatever else you need to do right now to cope with flashbacks.

Let’s spend one minute here in front of this screen. I’ll be here to talk you through it.

You are doing fine. It’s okay to be scared, or uncomfortable…. it’s okay to feel however you are feeling.

It’s okay to be frightened. It’s natural to feel unsafe when you are watching something so scary.

I know this is hard. But you’re getting through it. The images are not real right now, they are from the past. You are not in that place again. You are simply observing the flashback scenes on a TV screen. You know they are not real.

The minute is up. You did it.

Imagine turning the television screen off. See the flashback images and sensations disappear.

Now rub your hands together…. breathe in… and out….. in…. and out….. Let your hands rest at your sides as you continue to breathe slowly and focus on the present. See where you really are right now.

You survived your fears. You are here, now, safe.

Look around, eyes open, observing where you are. Return to the here and now.

You may want to move around a bit to fully orient yourself to the present. Stretch your arms and legs. When you are ready, stand up, and just stand quietly for a moment, looking around.

Now take a few steps, walking around, fully present wherever you are.

When you are fully awake and alert, you can return to your usual activities, keeping with you a feeling of serenity, safety, and calm.

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