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PTSD in nurses: the importance of self-awareness. Coping with Trauma

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

PTSD in nurses: the importance of self-awareness. How to cope with flashbacks after trauma and PTSD

Flashbacks can be distressing symptoms of PTSD; you may feel like you are reliving the events. Seeing and hearing parts of what happened is not uncommon and can be a disorientating experience in itself.

Once you've experienced a flashback for the first time, you may begin to worry about when it may happen again, read and practice the techniques below to start building up a range of coping skills for dealing with flashbacks.

Many people find that they can struggle with the effects of PTSD on specific dates and anniversaries of trauma. The strategies below can also be helpful plan for these more difficult times.

Many flashbacks happen suddenly and can catch you off guard, so it is essential to have a range of tools you can use to help keep yourself calm and ground yourself back in the present moment.

How to cope during a flashback

When experiencing a flashback, you may feel like you've returned to a traumatic event.

This cannot be very pleasant, but there are strategies you can practice to help reduce the impact of flashbacks.

These include:

Breathing slow and deep - When you are experiencing distress, even in a flashback, you can stop breathing normally. Holding your breath or breathing too fast can affect your heart rate, making you panicky.

Carry an anchor object- Some people find it helpful to carry an object with them they can touch during a flashback to help bring them back to the present. This can be anything small that can fit in a pocket.

Remind yourself you're safe- verbally reminding yourself that the trauma is over and that you're safe can help you feel calmer during a flashback.

Use grounding techniques

Another great way to help cope with flashbacks is to learn how to use grounding techniques. This uses all the senses to help keep you in the present moment and helps reduce flashbacks over time.



Here are some ways to use grounding techniques for each sense.

Sight- Count all the objects you can see. Find objects of the same colour. Count different pieces of furniture.

Smell- strong smells such as peppermint can make it hard to focus on other things.

Sound- Turn up the music. This will be hard to ignore, and movement can also help you shake off an imminent flashback.

Taste- Eating foods with a strong flavour, such as lemon or grapefruit, can keep you focused on the present.

Touch- Hold onto something really cold, like an ice cube or cold metal

Completing tasks like those above can help you stay focused on the present moment and help ward off upsetting flashbacks.

Take a moment each day to practice the techniques above:

  1. What times of year might be difficult for you, and how can you prepare for them?

  2. What booming music would you choose to help you ground yourself?

  3. What would you choose for your anchor object?

  4. Would you select peppermint for your strong smell?

  5. Has anything else helped you during a flashback?


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