8 strategies for dealing with flashforwards by Louise Pearson

Many people with MS experience the trauma of flashforwards rather than flashbacks. These can be big or small.

A small scale flashforward could be imagining yourself not being able to find wheelchair access to a building you’re visiting for a job interview, or not being able to find the right words on a hot day.

A major scale flashforward could be imagining yourself 10 years from now and worrying about what your disability will be then, or who’s going to help look after you.

Here are eight practical strategies to help you deal with flashforwards:
  1. Ground yourself in the present moment
    If you’re afraid you might end up in a wheelchair but are now able to walk for example, put your feet on the ground and concentrate on the feel of the earth beneath them. 
  2. Look for reminders that you’re in the here and now, and not in the future
    If you’re having a flashforward 10 years into the future, pick up your mobile and look at the date. While it all feels very real in your imagination, you need to remind yourself that this image is not of you and is not what’s happening right now.
  3. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
     - describe five things you can see around you
     - name four things you can physically feel right now
     - name three things you can hear right now
     - name two things you can smell right now
     - name one thing you’re good at or that you’re grateful for.
  4. Focus on your breathing
    Count slowly to three on the in breath and slowly to three on the out breath.
    On the in breath breathe in peace, calm and safety.
    On the out breath, breathe out fear and sadness.
  5. Use technology to help you develop mindfulness
    If you have a tablet, laptop or smart phone, you can access apps like Smiling Mind, Headspace, or Calm.
    Check out channels on YouTube like TedX, which offer a host of short talks designed to help with mental wellbeing.
  6. Listen to positive affirmations or meditations
    Look for meditations and affirmations that are aimed at changing your mindset from fearful to more positive. Play them in the car, at home, and even as you’re drifting off to sleep.
  7. Seek counselling
    There are mental healthcare plans through which you can see a psychologist or a mental health social worker, and you can get some money back from Medicare. You may also be able to get counselling as part of your NDIS plan if it’s related to your disability.
  8. Nothing quite beats anxiety and depression like taking some action - use the ‘Three F’s’ list to help you do this

    Commit to spending at least five minutes working on your lists every day. Once you tick something off, you can add something else. If you can’t write things easily and you have an iPhone, Siri will take dictation or even set up lists for you in the reminders app.

    Write down the things that you think of as fun (i.e., planning a catch up with a friend, reading a book, trying out a new recipe, watching a movie on Netflix).
    Write down the things which you need to focus on (i.e., planning the week’s meals, doing an assignment, paying the household bills, calling MS Connect and finding out about how to get a physio assessment).

    Write down the things you need to do to make your life fulfilling (i.e., doing exercise, shopping, going to bed early, getting your scripts filled at the chemist).

    Take action in whatever way works for you. Remember, it’s the leaps that terrify us. The small steps make us free.

Louise Pearson is a mental health social worker, counsellor and Gestalt psychotherapist with almost 30 years’ experience working with people with neurological conditions. If you would like further information, Louise can be contacted via her website: www.louisepearson.com.au

If you’d like to speak to someone about strategies for dealing with your anxiety, call our MS Connect team on 1800 042 138.

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