Nightmares are not quite as frightening to me as when I was a child, but I still do not like the effects they have on me as an adult. I can wake up in a bad mood, anxious, agitated, etc., if I do not process the dream as I head into my day. When I was a child, my recurring nightmare was being on a conveyor belt headed toward the belt drop off, and a witch, who looked like the wicked witch of Oz, floating above me would cackle above my head waiting for me to drop off the end. It was a horrible nightmare as a child, and I certainly did not have the skills I have today to know what to do to deal with that sense of powerlessness that dreams evoke. However, I still wake up disturbed on the matter, and I have to do extra self-care to move my emotional state toward feeling powerful again. Here are my tools for dealing with bad dreams because adults still have bad dreams, too.
1. I am careful what I watch on television because visual images can stimulate my brain to evoke more of the same. Science suggests that electronic images can disturb our sleep if we watch TV or go on the internet one hour before sleep.
2. I have a regular bedtime routine that includes peaceful relaxation at a specific time each night. An atmosphere of peace lowers my stimulation levels and creates a more restful sleep. I find reading relaxing, and I make sure I read something peaceful before sleep.
3. I fill my mind with good imagery. Science suggests daydreaming can influence what type of dreams I have. If I imagine myself to be powerless, I will, in turn, have powerless dreams, but if I daydream about being powerful and peaceful, I am likely to have peaceful dreams. I had the witch dream and another dream over and over as a child because I would think about it a lot before I went to sleep. My grandmother taught me to write stories in my head and the more I wrote stories in my head, the less the nightmare returned.
4. I pray and meditate on good things before going to sleep, so my mind is filled with good things before I go to sleep.
5. If I have a nightmare, I tell someone the dream when I can do so because getting it out of my head seems to clear it out of me faster than letting it rest in there.
6. If I have a recurrent nightmare, I talk about it with one of my therapist friends so as to process what the themes are presenting in the dream. My personal belief system is that God can talk to me in my sleep, but if it is a nightmare, what is the spiritual system that is trying to influence me?
7. I choose to not give the dream power over the rest of my day by making conscious choices to play positive, upbeat music, meditate on positive, upbeat things and choosing to find joy in my morning. I will not allow the dream to take my power, so I make choices that will invite power into my emotions including praying.
It would be lovely if we could completely control bad dreams from happening, but we can certainly create habits that inhibit them from occurring or from having power over us. When we are children, we are dependent upon our parents to help us create a powerful environment, but when we are adults we choose what we give power in our life.
Psalm 4:8 (NIV) In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.