How to break free from the grip of ter­ri­fy­ing night­mares

Llanelli Star - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

MOST peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence night­mares from time to time.

Whilst they can be very un­pleas­ant, hav­ing the oc­ca­sional night­mare isn’t usu­ally cause for con­cern.

How­ever, fre­quent or re­cur­ring night­mares can in­ter­fere with sleep, con­trib­ute to anx­i­ety and stress and have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on well­be­ing. If you want to re­duce un­wanted night­mares, try the fol­low­ing steps.

■ Prac­tise re­lax­ation – be­fore you start work­ing a night­mare it’s im­por­tant to do some­thing to re­lax as much as pos­si­ble.

Try paced breath­ing (for ex­am­ple breath­ing in for a count of five and out for a count of seven), lis­ten­ing to re­lax­ing mu­sic or do­ing a guided im­agery ex­er­cise.

You can down­load free re­lax­ation re­sources from mood­cafe.co.uk.

■ Choose a night­mare to work on. Pick a night­mare that you feel able to man­age now. If you have more than one night­mare, pick the least dis­tress­ing to work on first.

Grad­u­ally build up to work­ing on very dis­tress­ing night­mares. If your night­mare re­lates to a trauma you have ex­pe­ri­enced, skip the next step to re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of re­liv­ing the trauma.

■ Write down a de­scrip­tion of your night­mare. In­clude as much de­tail as pos­si­ble in­clud­ing what you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste in the night­mare.

De­scribe the en­vi­ron­ment, the sit­u­a­tions that oc­cur and any other peo­ple that ap­pear. In­clude the thoughts and feel­ings you ex­pe­ri­ence in the night­mare.

■ Pick an al­ter­na­tive out­come for the night­mare. The changes should start prior to any­thing bad hap­pen­ing in the night­mare.

You are aim­ing to make a change in the story that pre­vents the dis­tress­ing or trau­matic out­come that usu­ally hap­pens in the night­mare.

Be cre­ative here. For ex­am­ple, you could use mag­i­cal think­ing like hav­ing su­per­hu­man pow­ers to There are tech­niques to change the nar­ra­tive of your bad dreams es­cape dan­ger.

Come up with an end­ing that will leave you feel­ing peace­ful when you wake up.

Now write down the full night­mare from start to fin­ish in­cor­po­rat­ing the changes you have made.

■ Re­hearse and re­lax. Read through your script un­til you are fa­mil­iar with the changed dream.

Each night vi­su­alise the changed dream from start to fin­ish.

Prac­tise re­lax­ation (see step 1) be­fore go­ing to bed.

Prac­tise re­hears­ing your dream and re­lax­ation dur­ing the day where pos­si­ble too.

Dr El­lie Milby is a coun­selling psychologi­st

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