How To Stop PTSD Anxiety, Flashbacks and Panic (Part 2)
A few weeks ago I wrote about how to stop PTSD anxiety, flashbacks and panic from the perspective of putting mindfulness and intention into action. My colleague, Megan Ross (Trauma Therapy Coordinator at Timberline Knolls) and I had a whole conversation about this and I wanted to share her insights with you.
But there was a cliffhanger: Once you understand PTSD symptoms and how mindfulness can help change your physiological experience, the question arises, "What do I do now?" Specifically, what can you do to interrupt or stop flashbacks?
Megan Ross and I talked about this too. See what you think about the tips that we covered.
Putting the Theory Into Action
To continue our conversation, I told Megan what I was thinking about the effects of trauma. Namely, everything feels like so much chaos and we feel so powerless. Building on our previous discussion of intention and purpose, I agreed that we can start shifting into feeling powerful (vs. powerless) through making choices and taking actions. Then, taking the idea of being intentional with awareness, I asked her perspective on these questions I hear so often,
“How do I stop a flashback? How do I manage a moment where I feel everything’s out of control? What do I do when I feel like I’m floating?”
I asked Megan how someone applies mindfulness in answer to those questions. And, how we can use mindfulness to interrupt, prevent or stop a flashback. This is what she said:
A couple of points. One reason why a definition of mindfulness is somewhat amorphous or challenging is because mindfulness itself is an experience, or an “experiential knowing.” You have to put action into mindfulness. It’s not just a theory we can hope we’re doing. You have to actually become aware of yourself through sensory awareness and becoming aware of the world around you through orientation.
There are a couple ways that assists in the anxiety, panic and flooding experience, which can lead to flashbacks. Another point of mindfulness is that it’s a muscle you have to develop. So, interrupting panic, anxiety or a flood is providing a worked muscle to end up orienting back to the environment around you; being able to become aware of sensory information that is coming into you and beginning to slow and pause.
A really effective way that this ends up working is through the idea of a panic or anxiety attack: Mindfulness is being able to interrupt that process by pressing a pause button inside of that process to end up developing space. That space then has the ability to either shift the thought or relieve the adrenalin dump, which shifts the emotional response.
One of the ways you can develop that yourself is by noticing something that really feeds you. That is, creating pause and space in the cycle of a panic attack by imagining something that makes you feel good.
So that is one way of approaching interrupting a flooding situation. You can use any focus favoring any of your senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, or taste. The point is to reorient yourself to the present moment that you are experiencing rather than the thought, the adrenalin and the emotion tied to the panic.
So, what do you think? When you put the theory of mindfulness into continual practice you can imagine how the thought/adrenalin/emotion process gets hijacked (in a good way), which allows you to reclaim control in the moment. Successfully building the muscle means practicing mindfulness in low stress moments, which will make it easier to access and utilize in more challenging circumstances.
Let me know what you think of this, how it works for you and other ideas of how to stop PTSD anxiety, flashbacks and panic by leaving a comment. We're all in this together; share your voice with me.
Rosenthal, M. (2014, May 28). How To Stop PTSD Anxiety, Flashbacks and Panic (Part 2), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2014/05/how-to-stop-ptsd-anxiety-flashbacks-and-panic-part-2
Author: Michele Rosenthal
I am wondering right now if the besy thing i can do for my ptsd is to finally deep in my bones and soul accept that the traumatic event happened. To accept the past cannot be undone and the residual damage is now and forever permanently part of me. I wondet if i stop fighting that truth amd forgive myself if that migjt be tje key to peace. But to test the theory i have to let go of tje rage directed at those who hurt me and my child and the rage directed at myself for not seeing into the future and preventing the physical assault.
I would rather cop my lot than give it more oxygen to screw me over even further, just trying to keep myself from deterioration but I can feel and see it happening before my eyes, just when there is a positive bang and backwards we go once more. I wish for it to go away, but I know it isn't
Is there a cure to PTSD or panic attacks? I don't know. But taking CALM or Magnesium Citrate capsules each day has helped me.
Hi Michelle - great two posts. I myself have come to the very exhaustive point in my journey where the likes of mindfulness in action is really the only option! And it feels great to reclaim life.
Best regards and keep up the writing,
Sara (and Mike),
There isn't a cure for PTSD, but you can manage the symptoms. I wrote this article Coping With Flashbacks several years ago, but it might offer some help or at least some ideas.
There's no cure for PTSD
How can one relax when an alarm is going off that there is something to be anxious about. No one stands calmly when a fire alarm is going off, and the thought well maybe there is no fire doesn't help much either because who wants to take the chance of being burned - would like to hear your thoughts on this.
yes!!!!! I am in DBT therapy and it is helping manage my anxiety a lot!!!
This is one of my greatest challenges. I talk about the noise in my head from my own voice and so many others, the flashbacks, anxiety and panic attacks, or converse, the dead zone of utter disconnection, surrealism, numbness. My T asks me what do you do when that happens. I dont know. Let it take its course? The hardest thing for me to do the sort of things listed here as 'mindfulness' is that I'm already checked out before i realize its too late. So to say 'stop' whats happening to you its more complicated than that. Alot of my time is spent divided into a few different places with their own thouhts, feelings, perspectives. Wherever i am, thats where i am. I dont have access to the other world that contains all the things i am 'mindful' of. All the things i know intellectually and logically. All the 'truths' that i think ive learned from my faith, my spouse, my therapist or friends. I have tried the whole talking myself out of it approach. Telling myself this is just a memory/flashback and its not actually happening or there isnt really anything wrong now. But i have other voices screaming in there too and the more i tell them to shut up the more pissed off one gets and the louder she screams. Soooo if somebody can tell me how to snap back or kick them out im listening. But i dont think theyre going anywhere. And no, i am not DID. Don 't know what i am. CPTSD, MDD, SA, SI, and something a measure short of DID. Ive been in T now longer than Ive ever made it. Over two years now. Which is both encouraging and depressing. Thats my problem. Everything is two or more opposing feelings and experiences. Anyway. I want to do better. Better than SI, better than SA, better than the dead zone shut down, better than bein taken over by my head. But at least one thing has happened recently. As hard as Ive tried not to trust my therapist or get all-- attached--and dependent, vulnerable, needy and pathetic---its happened anyway. And for the first time im learning that my T is safer (i dont believe in safe. Safety is not safe) than I am with myself. How can i argue with that? I just csnt figure out how to apply these great theories that dont really have a switch on the other side of the wardrobe, sotospeak. I have switches all over the place. The worlds a mine field for me. I cant control them being flipped---on OR off. I want the new skills, but theory and application are a world away. MY world away. Thanks for your article though. At least i know others are asking the same questions i do and are havin a hard time makin sense of the answers.
I wonder, how are you doing now January 15 2021, I hope you are still here friend