Managing Emotional Flashbacks - 10 Tips


10 Steps to Managing Flashbacks in Long Island, NY.

Read the past blog on emotional flashbacks and looking to try some skills for relief today? Read below and try some of these tips!

  1. Orient to Today.

Flashbacks bring the mind, body and psyche back in time, and it feels like you’re there. Orient to the here-and-now by saying “I am having a flashback”, “These feelings are memories, “ I am noticing that I’m having something coming up.” By doing this you’re creating distance from the past and present, and helping your body track present safety and stability.


2. Identify the Emotional Theme.

When you’re having an emotional flashback, there may be a theme. Is it fear of being alone? Is it concern of being criticized? Is it a reminder of being forgotten? Ignored? Is it be alert to danger or “on-guard” to mood swings of those around? Identify if there’s a theme that is letting you know that there’s a specific worry that you can tend to as you reassure yourself, or bring it up to process in therapy.

3. Trace your Skin.

Help your body ground itself by gently tapping or massaging the outer layers of your skin, to help your body settle down. When in a flashback, the body speeds up into hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance (fight-flight) or may begin dissociating and spacing out (freeze/collapse). By physically grounding yourself, feeling your skin, you drop out of the survival defenses and back into a more connected state of mind.

4. Slow your Breath.

The breath speeds up when there’s any change on a mental or physical level. If your breathing is shallow, or if you’re not sure how well you’re breathing, start with a deep exhale. Count to four as you inhale. Hold the breath for four seconds. Exhale to the count of four, and then hold for four seconds. Repeat this. By slowing your breath you help calm the brain and body.

5. Track Time.


Say to yourself out loud, “Today is 2019, I am ___ years old and I live with ___”. In emotionally overwhelming situations, it feels like time won’t ever stop. Even if you’re life isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be, or if you’re on your healing from abandonment, loss or trauma, it is still important to remind yourself of who, where, what you are today. This pulls the mind out of the quicksand of the ‘things never change’ to ‘ things change slowly, and I’m learning to be ok.’

6. Snapshot of Part {Inner Child} Holding the Emotion.

Take a moment to slow down and close your eyes. When you feel the feelings, how big or small do you feel. If you’re sitting or standing, see how much space that part of you would take up. Often, it’s a smaller or younger part of self. You may notice a sensation of feeling smaller, or having a weaker or shaky voice. Notice the part that might be holding the experience and send it compassion. Younger, inner child parts need to know that these feelings are valid and that you’re doing your best today to provide healing and security.

7. Somatic Awareness.

When we feel fear, we climb into “cognitive” overthinking with or feeling flooded. Bring yourself back to your body sensations. Begin by tightening all the muscles in your body. Back, Head, Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Toes, Face. Take a deep slow breath and slowly breath out. Notice where your body is carrying the tension, gently focus on that area and release, letting go of some of that accumulated tension.

8. Wrap in a Tight Blanket.


Wrap a tight blanket around your upper part of your body. By doing this, you’re unhooking the “panic button” and accessing the strength in your back. If you’re hunched over or your spine is bent, take the time to slowly sit upright so you engage with all the senses around you.

9. Ride the Fear.

Often, there are emotions that feel like waves, and there can be an urge to “shove them back in”. Notice any specific fear, panic or worry, and breath. Watch the sensations, thoughts or images like clouds passing in the sky. The body knows how to process through feelings, you just need to be patient and let it happen. Emotions won’t harm you and you’re not in danger. You may feel relief if you let yourself ride through it, as doing this chips away at the stored emotional energy trapped inside.

10. Drop the Panic.

You might begin getting even more anxious when you’re experiencing a flashback. Please remind yourself that this is normal. It is a healthy body response to an emotional memory. No need to panic or think catastrophically that your’e crazy or that you’ll be feeling this way forever. Drop those thoughts, and instead offer self compassion.

Flashbacks are an invitation.


Although it may not feel like it, flashbacks are invitations letting you know that you’re ready to let go of repressed emotions, memories or hurt. When your body is ready to heal and grieve the pains, you begin letting go of helplessness, anxiety and repressed anger that may be impacting you in ways you didn’t’ even realize.

Flashbacks are an opportunity to uncover, validate and heal unmet needs of the past.

You may want to keep a log of what kinds of things trigger you to flashbacks. It may be important to reduce some external triggering situations, such as places, people or conversations. Of course, some triggers are unavoidable, but you can do your best to first reduce external factors. This, in addition to engaging in inner healing work will help you reduce your susceptibility to flashbacks as you move forward in your healing.

Slower is faster. Be patient with yourself as you heal.

In trauma work, there is a common term “the slower you go, the faster you move.” Though it makes sense to feel rushed to feel better, notice the urgency and pace yourself. Healing is a slow, consistent, gradual process. As you practice skills, empower yourself with more knowledge and engage in your healing, you’ll notice shifts and feel better over time.


if you’ve been dealing with emotional flashbacks and are ready to do the work to experience relief, feel free to reach out.

At Integrative Psychotherapy, we offer scientific-based methods of healing that help clients resolve explicit and implicit emotional flashbacks.

Therapies such as EMDR, Somatic Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic Therapy and experiential exercises have been proven to help clients shake symptoms on mind, body and spirit levels.

Ready to heal? We love helping clients learn to live the life they truly desire.