Tips for Managing Nightmares and Flashbacks
Nightmares and flashbacks are a common response to traumatic or stressful life events. They can be a very unpleasant experience and unfortunately, they cannot always be predicted.
However, there are steps that you can take to calm yourself and get grounded back in the present moment. Over time, these strategies will likely reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares and flashbacks.
Here are some ideas to try:
Following a nightmare, try not to lie paralysed with fear for too long – remind yourself that you are safe now by immediately turning on the light
Re-orientate yourself to your immediate surroundings by naming 3 things that you can see, hear and touch
Tell yourself you are having a flashback/nightmare and that this is okay and a normal response to trauma
Remind yourself that it happened in the past but is not happening now. Say aloud what day and year it is, your current age, and where you currently are
Press your feet into the ground and move your body. Gentle yoga postures can be very helpful
Breathe deeply – breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts and breathe out for 6 counts.
Do something nurturing such as having a bath, patting a pet or going for a walk
When you feel ready after the flashback has ended, try writing down as much as you can remember and particularly what you did to get through it. This will help you to remember information for your healing and remind you that you got through it once and can do it again.
If you feel comfortable, let supportive people around you know. This way they may be able to help you if you want them to.
Remember that flashbacks and nightmares are normal and are a sign that your brain is processing the trauma that you have experienced. You are not crazy!