Relaxation to Stop Flashbacks
This relaxation to stop flashbacks is a story written by Diana. The story is about using relaxation as a way to cope with being in the presence of a reminder of a traumatic event. You can use this visualization for any reminder of the past so you do not have a flashback. If you do have a flashback, this is because of a reminder of the past. The reminder is not the traumatic event. If you do start to have a flashback, relaxation can make the flashback story go away. Relaxation makes flashbacks go away. Relaxation makes all flashbacks go away.
As you begin this relaxation to stop flashbacks exercise, make yourself comfortable. Find a position that you can maintain for several minutes comfortably.
Begin to become aware of your breathing.
Notice each breath as it goes in...and out...
See how you can slow the rhythm of your breathing by counting. Breathe in to the count of 4, hold for a count of 3, and exhale to the count of 5.
Breathe in....2.....3.....4.....Pause...2.....3.....Breathe out....2.....3.....4.....5.....
Breathe in....2.....3.....4.....Pause...2.....3.....Breathe out....2.....3.....4.....5.....
Continue to breathe slowly, smoothly...relaxing more with each breath.
Feel yourself becoming more and more relaxed. You can stop flashbacks. You do stop flashbacks. You have the ability to stop flashbacks.
Now ask yourself if something is upsetting you and you don’t know why…but you think it may be leading you to think about your past and to think you are in a past scene from your life. This set-up event may be something you may see…something you may hear…a physical sensation of stress…or a place or object you are afraid of--something that makes you want to tell it to go away because it is unpleasant. Create a picture in your mind of this event…or pretend you are writing a very short story about it.
Now think of the response you have when faced with such an event. The response of the untrained person is to let this event automatically lead you into having a flashback, and this is what your mind does if your imagination has no replacement pictures to send to you. Now you don’t have to have a flashback.
There is another reminder that works to make the flashbacks go away. You can use your imagination to picture good and happy things...even in the presence of a reminder of a trauma. You no longer have to imagine the story from your past which this reminder points to. Relaxation makes flashbacks go away.
Here’s how to use relaxation as a reminder. This how-to is a series of affirmations. Just listen to the words. They tell you what to imagine. You are going to use your imagination to do something that maybe it has not done before.
Think about the reminder story you have been imagining so far.
What are you feeling in your body?
What scene are you picturing in your mind’s eyes?
What words are you hearing with your mind’s ears?
What emotions are you feeling?
You may feel some or most of the original tension come into your body and hear scary words flood your imagination when you think about the story you imagined in the beginning of this exercise. The words in the scene of the flashback may be like surround sound and be so clear you can write them on a piece of paper…but they are silent words…because they are a part of an image from the past that once was real.
The scene may have images that are like high def pictures…but they too are silent because they are not happening right now…in the middle of a relaxation exercise. Because of the words you hear in your imagination and the pictures your imagination sees because it has nothing except the original traumatic event from the past…with its own words and pictures…to tell you what this reminder event means, your body turns on the stress response, and you have a flashback which is trying to tell you that the trauma is happening all over again. But relaxation can stop even this flashback, even this one.
Now imagine that there’s a word called “Relax.“ It is like a an object or decoration you can feel. Touch this word, and imagine what it says to you.
This is the voice of the word. Hear what it is saying. Imagine its words becoming so clear you can write them on a piece of paper or hear someone with a friendly voice saying them to you. Imagine the voice of the word called Relax.
It says:“My name is Relaxer. I am here to help you. Whenever you think about the upsetting story you have imagined so far, you now learn to relax instead. You are finished with having flashbacks because you are training to think of me instead and to do what I say…and you like what I say because I’m a very nice word. Please imagine me.
Imagine that Relaxer is a person and that she is saying such wonderful words to you that are so wonderful because they calm your body and make your mind think of happy things. She says her words that will help you when you are in a story that you are afraid of.
I am the second response your body has whenever you are in a scary story or are having to listen to something that scares you. Your body knows how to listen to me when I start talking. I’m going to teach your mind how to listen to me. The reason you’ve been having flashbacks is that your imagination doesn’t know how to picture me instead of the story it is used to picturing because of reminders of the past.
In your mind, reach out and hold my hand. Now you picture me, and you are doing very well. What do I look like? What color is my hair? What kind of voice do I have--low…high…male… female? What kind of arms do I have when I lead you to a nice comfy place where I live? If you are a little kid I come and give you a hug. I am Mrs. Relaxer. Say my name, and I am with you.
You don’t have to find me by trying to do big breathing. I come whenever you hear in your mind’s ears, RELAX or you hear a storyteller say my name in a relaxation exercise. Relax … and I am with you. I am here if you have a flashback or a panic attack. I can make both go away.”
“Here is more of my speech. I am Mrs. Relaxer and I say the following words. You can listen or you can let my words into your awareness. Relaxation makes flashbacks go away. You are in the process of memorizing me and what I do. I am a word though you have imagined me as a person.”
If you are experiencing a panic attack or flashback right now, you probably feel afraid.Even though you are terrified, you are okay. The symptoms you experience are not going to hurt you. They are a normal and natural response that will pass.
However frightening this experience is, it will not last. It cannot last. Your body will not remain in this mode because there is another normal and natural response your body is equipped with to counteract the stress response.
It is called the relaxation response. While you wait for the relaxation response to begin, you might want to do some calm breathing.
You can breathe right now. Even if it does not feel like it, you are getting enough oxygen.Your body knows how much air it needs. Notice that you are able to breathe out, right now, as if you are blowing out a candle. Take a breath in, and then imagine blowing out one small candle with a little puff of air.
Breathe in, slowly...hold that breath... and now breathe out, slowly. Let out all the air.
Breathe in...hold ...and out.....
Keep breathing slowly... in ...and out....
Breathe in again, and then hold up one finger in front of you, as if that finger is a candle.Feel the air on your hand as you blow out forcefully through your mouth, blowing out the candle.You can repeat this if you like. Or if you would rather, just continue your slow, gentle breathing.Notice how your body naturally controls your breathing. You are getting just the right amount of air.
Continue to breathe naturally, deeply, slowly.
Look around you now at your surroundings. See and hear the environment around you.Notice that there is no real danger at this moment. Even though you may feel afraid right now, this fear will pass because it is not based on anything that is here in this moment.Look around...is there anything to fear? Is there anything you can do to make your environment feel more safe? Some people feel more comfortable if they turn a light on, or phone a friend, or read a book... even getting up and moving around a bit sometimes helps people feel more calm...what works for you?
Maybe none of those things are helpful right now, and that's okay, because the feeling of anxiety will pass. Even if you do nothing more besides simply wait it out, the anxiety will decrease...get smaller and smaller....until it goes away...leaving you feeling calm.
You don't need to do anything at all right now...there is nothing you need to think about or focus on or try to do...no effort is required really at all...if you choose to, you can just sit passively....just noticing your surroundings and noticing your breathing becoming calmer and calmer....You are okay. Even though you might not feel okay right now...you are okay.
You might want to center yourself by turning your attention now to your hands. Rub your palms together, warming your hands. Feel the friction between your two hands as you rub them together. Feel your hands warming.
See how much more grounded you feel as you notice the sensation of your hands rubbing together, you hear the swishing sound of your hands rubbing together, and you see the movement of your hands. Allow this action to help you feel centered... grounded... maybe even a bit more calm.
You can relax your hands whenever you want. Feel the feeling of relaxation as you allow your hands to just rest.
Anxiety is a normal and natural process... it is perfectly okay to feel anxious right now, although it can be terrifying. You may notice the feeling passing... you might be a bit less anxious now than you were a couple of minutes ago.
Notice that the state of your mind and body is always changing. Each moment differs from the next, even if only in the smallest ways. Five seconds before this moment, you were not at the same level of tension or relaxation that you are at now. You may have been more calm or less calm, but in some minute way, different. And now... you are feeling different yet... and now....and now....each moment passes by quietly, and you are more or less relaxed...always changing.....
This change is a wonderful fact. It means that you cannot be as anxious moment to moment, and the anxiety cannot stay at one level. Anxiety cannot stay. Feel it slipping away, even further from your mind right now....
You are okay. The way you feel is okay.
If you want to, you can accept the way you are feeling, good or bad, right in this moment. Know that the way you feel is fleeting, changing...but accept... accept wherever you are at....
If you want to relax right now, you can allow the body's natural relaxation response to occur. This response will happen, regardless of what you do, to bring your body back to baseline...Your whole body can relax deeply because there is nothing you need to dobesides a feeling of relaxation...and nowhere to be...except relaxing...the only thing you need to do and be is to relax deeply and comfortably and to drift just to drift and relax happily...enjoying a relaxed feeling that is so easy to create and so natural that you may even begin thinking about relaxing even more. And this may even begin to occur right now as you notice that you are relaxing. And soon you may notice that you are becoming deeply relaxed. And this might start now and it might start a moment from now or it might have already begun. And you may just feel as if you want to relax now...or you may decide to just drift pleasantly and not even think about relaxing...you may not even decide to relax now or later but you just find that it is so comfortable and pleasant to just be right here in this moment now and so relaxed.
Now that you are fully relaxed, take a moment to memorize this state before returning to your usual activities.
Notice the relaxation you are experiencing. See how calm and regular your breathing is.Take note of the relaxation in your body and the calm state of your mind.
Observe closely the feeling of relaxation, and commit the details to memory so you can remember and recreate this relaxation again whenever you need to.
Memorize this relaxed feeling.
Now that you have memorized this state of relaxation, you can reawaken your body.
I'll count up to 5. Allow yourself to become more awake and alert with each number, until at 5, you are completely awake and calm.