Coping is a survival tool that helps us to manage situations when we are faced with high stress, anxiety, physical exertion, illness, grief, fear and confusion. Coping means different things to people but one thing we can all agree on is it’s a step towards altering the mechanics of the situation. For some people coping means doing something and ‘barely getting by’, or to others it is managing the present. But by changing our view, emotions or cycle of problem solving we are a step closer to finding a productive way of solving and bringing closure to the issue.
To me, coping is an action both physical and mental that is carried out in the form of a goal oriented task or cognitive process that lessons the physical stress and relieves the psychological stress from the self enabling a state of conscious present, awareness to promote problem solving focusing on the significant details of the issue in order to bring closure as quickly as possible.
As fancy as that may sound, sometimes gorging on a cheesecake is a fine coping skill that suits me just well. =)
Other times it is more like a coping plan of action that includes elaborate things like grocery shopping, eating, clothes shopping, manicures, pedicures, grooming, girls night out, eating, taking naps and long walks, luxurious bubble baths, eating and bakery shopping. (yes, like clothes shopping, bakery shopping gets its own category because I love going to bakeries more than anything).
It’s very important that you find what coping method works best for you. Sometimes my night terrors are so bad I just want to spend the morning crying or curled up in my bed in fetal position gnawing on my blanket but I can’t because I have bills to pay and unfortunately VISA doesn’t let me pay in magical dream coins (which have yet to be invented 😉 ) so it’s a rough morning, and because I have to be cheery, friendly and helpful at work it turns into a rough day because of the amount of energy it takes to fulfill social standards. With this energy consumed and having to shelf my fear and anxiety it becomes suppressed and lays dormant, but only for so long. With these things happening it feels like your basic needs aren’t being met and it drives you bonkers!
My own coping methods that seem to work quite well are:
1) Scooby Doo & the old Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers (they are low stress, low drama, funny and predictable)
2) Grooming (bubble baths, eyebrows waxed, manicures, pedicures, etc)
3) Good, wholesome food (I like Balkan yogurt with honey and pumpkin spice on top) or sometimes some baked goods like pie or cinnamon buns help. Other foods like a balanced meal.
4) Hot chocolate (I’m sure Carnation’s net worth is 20% thanks to me)
5) Reading (submerse myself in a good book!)
I have one golden rule for stress and coping: I refuse to think of or discuss anything stressful while fulfilling or meeting a basic need. Basic needs: food, warmth, shelter, love, sleep, grooming & cleanliness. This means if I am showering, cleaning my home, doing laundry, trying to get dry and warm after a cold rainy day, spending time with loved ones, eating, having something hot to drink, sleeping, or haven’t been home all day and need time to myself, I will not be dealing with issues during these times. I spend the rest of all 16hrs a day worrying. I see nothing wrong with taking 8hrs for my own mental health.
Every night, 11:00pm, I bring the final steps of closure to my day while unwinding by watching an episode of Scooby Doo. The only Great Dane I have ever heard of who can dress up like a painter, ghost, pirate or when called upon, John Wayne, to cope with the stresses and demands of the world.
Tonight my favorite episode What a Night for a Knight was aired and I could not help but think how wonderful it would be if we could all be a bit more creative with our coping and stress management. At one point in the episode Scooby dresses up like a painter and begins to pretend to paint the knight, squirting red paint on the set up canvas and then in the knight’s face! To think the knight is trying to capture Scoob- and the Gang, and here he is so creative in his getaway. I suppose nothing grizzly or murderous or remotely treacherous ever happens in Scooby Doo except for a bump on the head and being dressed up like a tiki man, but I can’t help but feel there could be a lesson (obviously not psychology taught by Hannah Barbara) taught here. The lesson would be not to take stresses to heart. Even when managing what life has to throw at you, yes do what you have to do but do it with gusto or creative management.
I think one of the undervalued points and developing skills you should acquire while suffering from night terrors is coping. Often we settle on curing everything but as I have researched and read: Night Terrors can not be cured. They may be temporarily relieved but they will always return. As the subject gets older, he/she ‘s night terrors may subside or fade but there is no known cure. For me, as I know you have read many times, management is the key and a part of management is coping.
This is a post I copied from another blog that I really relate to and helped me to to feel “normal” for the duration of the reading. Hopefully it will help some of you as well.
Please visit the author here:
I woke up screaming last night. This hasn’t happened to me in a few months. I have night terrors, or what I like to call hallucinations. They come and go; sometimes they’re every night, sometimes I won’t have one for months. I’ve had them since I was little. I thought I figured out why I had them, but then I discovered I hadn’t.
I’ve always had very graphic dreams. My nightmares are worthy of horror status. When I was a little girl I used to have the worst nightmares. I remember when every night I was having a nightmare of being killed in a different way. This continued for a couple weeks. Sometimes I dream so much that I don’t feel rested in the morning. Some of my friends say they rarely have nightmares; I rarely don’t.
More than just nightmares, I also have night hallucinations. I will wake up, see my room as it is, but I will hallucinate something in the room that’s not there. Most often this is spiders, but sometimes its people. In real life spiders give me the heeby-jeebies, but I’m not terrified of them. I have no idea why this is the most common hallucination I’ve had. I will have my eyes open when I’m seeing this, sometimes be sitting or standing, but I won’t fully wake until I turn on the light or run out of my room. It’s like I’m stuck in this in-between state of sleeping and full consciousness.
I remember many of my hallucinations clearly, even if they happened years ago. One of the worst was when I was still living at home. I opened my eyes and saw giant spiders falling from the ceiling, one directly over my face. I screamed and had to slide out of bed without sitting up because the spider was close enough that it would hit my face. I flipped on the light and stood there hyperventilating until my mind processed that it was a hallucination. Last night, I woke up and saw a tarantula the size of my hand hanging from a web about a foot from my face, while one crawled out from under the blanket next to me. I screamed, jumped across the room in one leap and flipped the light on. I stood there scanning the room frantically, chest heaving. The dogs looked up at me confused and tired. I had to rip off all the sheets and blankets to make sure it was just a hallucination before I could go back to bed. Sometimes when I go back to sleep I hallucinate again, the same or similar thing, so I try to stay awake for a while or leave a light on.
Arachnids aren’t the only thing that haunt me. Sometimes I wake up and see people. The first time I remember seeing someone was when I was in high school. I had one of those butterfly nets around my bed, the kind that is just around the head of the bed. I woke up in the morning, with my face in the net. Crouching down next to my bed was a man, with his face directly in front of mine. I screamed and sat up. Since it was light he quickly vanished. Just a few months ago in my old house, I was sleeping on the couch for a while, just because sometimes it’s better for my back. Every night I would wake up and see someone standing in the middle of the room. At first I would jump up and turn on the light. After a while I got used to it and would just turn over and go back to sleep.
This makes for an awkward night if this happens when I’m not alone. Usually I warn people of my hallucinations if I’m sharing the bed, but it’s a weird thing to tell someone. I used to think it happened when I got hot in my sleep, but after keeping my room cold, I’ve realized that’s not always true. But, it is pretty much guaranteed if I get hot in my sleep, so it’s best to keep things chilly. I’ve hallucinated in the past with two different boyfriends. They learned the hard way not to try to hold me down. I don’t really process anything during that time other than, I need to get away from whatever is coming at me.
I’ve always wanted to do a sleep study, but there’s no way to guarantee I’d hallucinate and to be quite honest, it kind of creeps me out. Someone watching or videotaping me while I’m sleeping is just a little weird. I’ve sparked the interest of many people in the medical field. The most recent was a nurse from Salt Lake. He said he’d been reading about people with night terrors and even offered for me to come to the hospital for research. Someday it is something I want to look into more. I don’t know why I have them and I want to know. If I get really stressed the frequency increases. It’s obviously not normal. I don’t like waking up screaming. I don’t like being scared to go back to sleep. But as of now, it’s not something that disrupts my everyday life. It doesn’t prohibit me from sleeping. Before last night, I hadn’t had a hallucination in over a month. This was my first one in the new apartment.
So next time you can’t sleep be thankful you don’t have giant spiders falling on your face, or dark figures pushing you down in bed, or huge bees swarming around the ceiling, or someone standing in the room watching you every night. Sleep tight.
I stumbled across this and thought “meh- wtheck, I’ll read it, post it and maybe it will be of some use to someone!”
A Toxic Dream is usually a very realistic, upsetting dream that is most likely to occur when your body’s cleansing system is overloaded during sleep. They are usually terrible nightmares and their purpose is often simply as a signal that you went to bed in a physically toxic state. These dreams can result from a number of factors the day before, including:
- Eating refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour), processed or junk food, additives or preservatives.
- Eating any foods within 2 hours before going to bed.
- Ingesting drugs or other substances that stress the body.
- Encountering environmental toxins (mold, exhaust fumes, etc.).
- Being stressed (stress hormone by-products load the body’s cleansing system just like external toxins do).
- Being emotionally toxic, such as going to bed angry or hateful (holding on to emotional upset creates a stressful physical state).
- Not getting enough rest (sleep-deprivation robs the body of its critical nighttime cleansing cycle, leaving more toxins in the body).
Your senses play an integral role to your day. We can feel if our clothes are dirty or clean, we can feel the cloth irritate our skin making us itchy or anxious. We shiver when we are cold and sweat when we are hot. Our tummies growl and sometimes give us that awful hollow feeling when we have not eaten. Loud noises such as music, tv or even neighbours can put us on edge. Sometimes scary movies linger in the shadows of our mind making us feel watched or haunted. Other times it is the electronic marvels that marvel us into high stress and anxiety like your cell, blackberry, ipod, laptop (if you have a 10min email check like me turned on 24/7), and not to forget the tv and radio/docking station.
All of this, at least for myself, drives me crazy! I once knew a guy who everyday at 4:00pm, turned off his phone, his laptop and refused to look at the clock unless he was outside of his home. His reasoning was that technology including deadlines, people and tweets was ruling his life. He was stressed out enough as it was, was it too much to ask to have 6hrs before bed without being disturbed by technology? I myself am well against the invention of the phone. My work is very social and I feel being inturrupted in my home at night when I have enough worries about life let alone sleep, now I have to accomodate someone else because they’re a chatty cathy? Well, call me a bitter betty, but I think people are way too demanding and my mental and physical health outweighs anyone else and their social needs. I do take phone calls from the odd friend or colleague who I know will call with prupose and without drama and chaos. This I do not mind as much. Even my twitter is geared specifically for sleep only!
So for those of us who are taking deep breaths in life as opposed to be calm, cool and collective, why are we taking these things to bed with us? Why are we disturbing our senses for the “royal they”, or social demands? (Note: “Royal They” is a Social Work expression referring to the people in our lives who run our lives by running our conscience.- for example: parental figures, teachers, friends, the popular kids, peer pressure, social norms, etc…)
We need to value our sleep as much as and for a lot of us, even more* than our daylight hours. We need to make time during the day to do laundry and cleaning so our nights can be clean and fresh. We need to make time to make wholesome meals and feed ourselves so we are not waking up to hunger pains or sugar lows/highs. It has more to do with prioritizing and placing value on our mental/physical health than anything else.
Our senses play out while we sleep affecting our dreams and sleep cycles. So is not important to soothe them and meet our basic needs to ensure a good nights rest at least? Sometimes even without actual sleep we can find rest by practicing relaxation.
My methods of relaxation:
Clean sheets, clean bed, clean bedroom and bathroom. De-clutterizing can de-stress us making our nights more laid back in turn allowing us to be more relaxed as opposed to on edge.
I always make sure my bedroom is warm (not hot) when I go to bed) and a personal preference is having it cooler as the night progresses. I find cool air (not cold) is easier to breath and more soothing at night, especially if I do wake up in a terror, to get back to sleep. I personally prefer yoga wear/lounge wear as pajamas as opposed to actual bedtime attire. I know I have said this before but this has made a 40% difference in my sleep. I find a light cotton, flowing and airy is the best. This way if you sweat at night, it can easily dry and you’re not woken in a puddle. Also this helps regulate my body temperature.
Having some hot tea or hot chocolate helps me to be nice and warm and toasty before bed but by the time I am asleep I am adjusting to the heat in the room fading into a cooler temp. I would advise not to have anything with alcohol, high in sugar like juice or hot chocolate made from syrups with high sugar content. This is the same for foods, things like meat, and some dairy products can be harder on your body to digest and takes more energy. If I’m hungry before bed I will snack on something citrus, like pineapple, orange or grapefruit or something else like a pear or yoghurt. You may want to try having a glass of milk (warm or cool) and you may be surprised how this can fill you up and take the edge off your hunger. I know cow’s milk has a lot of sugar in it, as opposed to some other soy products (which I drink), so you may want to weigh the sugar content against the odds of having a sugar high while trying to get to sleep. This is the same for yoghurt, don’t eat 20grams of sugar before bed if you can help it, anywhere between 1-7 should be alright.
When evening comes, everything slows down in my home. The music is turned down, the tv is low. Once the night outside is black the fireplace goes on, the lights dim and I preapre myself for the bedtime stages that are to follow. Remember that your body can not produce melotonin when it is light outside. Melontonin is something that is only cued to produce once it is dark. This is why having a night shade or eye shade can be so beneficial. For those who produce low amounts of melontonin it helps them to create more so they can have a deeper sleep and stay asleep longer. Once morning comes, your body will stop producing the melotonin. Note: you can pick up melotonin at your drugstore which is a natural way of helping to produce more. Also, I would not recommend working out or doing anything like cleaning or partying at night. It is important that cognitively and for your muscle memory that your body understands that this is quiet time and it can relax and melt away all the stress of the day. You’re teaching your body it is safe to relax and be worry free.
1) Set a Bedtime
In order to train your body to fall into a desirable pattern, you need to be consistent. Choose a bedtime you can follow regularly so that your body will know when it’s time to fall asleep. A good rule of thumb is to work backward from the time you have to be up. If you’d like eight hours of sleep, for example, and you want to wake up at 8 a.m., make midnight your bedtime.
2)Create a Super Sleep Environment
Make sure your bed is comfortable and your room is dark and quiet. If that’s a problem, invest in eyeshades and ear-plugs. Choose the right firmness for pillows and lower the temperature in the room so you don’t feel overheated once you’re under the covers.
3) Start a Relaxing Ritual
Write in a journal, take a hot bath, read a chapter in a favorite book, or do a few minutes of yoga. Try some light stretching or breathing exercises. This prepares your body for a comfortable, deep sleep.
4) Learn to Visualize
Envision yourself floating in the Caribbean, lying on a warm beach in Hawaii, or rejoicing after a great game of golf or tennis. Conjure this image in your mind before drifting off and then again if you wake up in the middle of the night. This kind of dream mantra can help to reinforce the sleep response.
5) Reward Yourself
When you’ve done all the right things, acknowledge your success. Positive reinforcement is an important factor in the learning process, so take some of the credit. Treat yourself to a new candle, a CD of your favorite music, a yummy treat, or your favorite tea. Rewards accelerate the learning process and make you feel good about what you’v e accomplished. As you should!
The most difficult part about suffering from Night Terrors is that people, including doctors and other medical practioners, often misdiagnose or dismiss them as a Nightmare. But when you have had a Night Terror, you know the difference is far greater than 180’degrees.
Night terrors rule our lives, for those of us who have them. They cause us to be sleep deprived, suffer from anxiety, fear, confusion, short term memory and physical pain. In my own experience I have woken with crushing pain in my limbs or sometimes my back or hands alone. Other times I wake up to a burning sensation in my eyes as though I have been sleeping all night without closing my eye lids or blinking. The worst of all this is not even being able to try to go to sleep. My own personal dilemma I have been trying to tackle: I am afraid to go to sleep. I admit this comes and goes, but is always lingering in my mind. Once I am aroused from a night terror I do not want to go back to sleep. I often want to run from my own bed because it is the place which I associate my terrors with. Those of you who again, suffer from night terrors, know what I am talking about. It feels like every day I can only operate at 65% maximum on a good day and less on a regular day because each night is like being retraumatized. The fear and anxiety in the dreams is so intense I have awoken to severe chest pains and shooting pain up my left arm. Other times this is accompanied by pain in my throat and neck and it becomes difficult to breathe. Every night. Every week.
The most exhausting part of all of this is in the morning when you’re finally relieved of your night shift you get to do it all over again that night. *sigh
I have a perfect understanding of nightmares. In fact I understand that they are bad dreams that sometimes are accompanied by sweating, shaking and a lingering feeling of your dream. I envy you people. At least you get to work on your issues. So many times when having night terrors I awake trying to scream, clawing at my pillow (which by the way is ripped up now) and I only wish I could remember what it was that happened so I could try and solve this mysertious haunting. Sometimes I can remember, I can remember really well, and it can even feel like a week later I had the same dream five minutes ago even when I didn’t. And for me this can be good because it’s like a chance to figure out what it all means. But there are other times when I only have flashes, like 3second video replay in my head and it’s stuck on repeat and irritates the hell out of me. And then, like I mentioned earlier, there are times I wake up confused and find myself in the fetal position crying and I don’t know why. I can’t recall anything. I just go through the rest of the day feeling upset, nervous, anxious and on edge because I know something happened. Something did happen. I just don’t know what. But no one else can tell me but me. It’s very frustrating.
This is why, in conclusion, I always drink a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I am doing my best to soothe the terror so I can be calm and cool and go to work and then do it all over again.