A friend who is going through a hard time asked me how to best deal with panic attacks following traumatic events, and when having night terrors. The following is a discussion, Q and A, and advice for dealing with night terrors, panic attacks at night, and disturbing nightmares.
Question: I’ve been sick for a month. I took TWO very long naps (2-3 hours each) and both times had night terrors and woke up in a panic that was hard to shake. I felt disoriented and panicked and couldn’t shake the images from the nightmares, to the point of tears.
Fortunately my doctor gave me nerve pills to help me get through this tough phase, which is the only thing that saved me from a total meltdown (lol)…
This isn’t my first go round with night terrors. They are associated with things in my real life, which makes it worse. Prior to getting sick, I witness two traumatizing things and couldn’t shake those visuals – and they “haunted me” every time I closed my eyes – even to wash my face in the shower.
What should I do??
Answer: First of all let me say I am sorry you are suffering. Panic attacks at night/ night terrors are extremely frightening and can leave you feeling bewildered, unsettled, and shaken long after it happened.
You mentioned that your doctor prescribed nerve pills to get you through tough phase of your life, what with being sick for a month. Please take them as prescribed. When you are agitated and feeling unnerved because of anxiety, you aren’t able to think straight.
Your thinking will be coming from an emotional place of fear, which is highly distorted. Your thinking can go on and on and race and become more disturbing. Taking medication your doctor prescribed to help quiet an overactive mind will definitely help you in the short term.
Here is what a very good psychiatric nurse practitioner I know told me that she orders for all her patients (many of whom are suicidal, depressed, anxious, etc) while they are going through a rough spot- be it psychological trauma, PTSD, medication adjustment or readjustment, etc.:
In addition to your prescribed medications, be sure to also take Vitamin D3, Zinc, and Fish Oil daily. All these things support a healthy nervous system.
This nurse practitioner (who teaches at a medical school and sits on the medical board of a local psychiatric hospital in New Jersey) told me that with some of her adolescent patients, she sees dramatic improvement in their moods just by taking these vitamins and supplements alone! So that in itself is worth its worthy of your consideration.
Tip: Never take supplements or vitamins on an empty stomach. Take them at night, the Zinc can help you sleep. 🙂
Recommended article to help you right now:
Insomnia and Anxiety- Tips to Get a Good Night’s Rest: http://panicfreeme.com/5495/insomnia-and-anxiety/
Trauma can haunt our memories, and that certainly the case with me (having been molested at age 7- and this is what started my anxiety and panic). And then last summer, I was re-traumatized when a family member threatened to kill himself.
The trauma victim needs most to feel safe. Because at the core they feel very UNsafe. And if you have practiced or have heard about mindfulness- this is where you learn to access your inner stillness– the very place where everything is calm and safe and peaceful. You learn to focus on your breathing, your connectedness to love and energy beyond what can be seen and felt in the physical world.
This is how you start to heal yourself 🙂
When the mind is in an anxious state, it tends to loop on itself and go on and on. But with mindfulness, you can choose to focus your attention AWAY from the disturbing thought or visual image and TOWARDS something life affirming and loving- such as deeply feeling the love of a beloved relative or friend who has died and gone before you.
Last summer and fall, I did that a lot. I remembered the unconditional love I experienced from my Grandpa and Grandma. Although both have been deceased for years (my Grandma died when I was 12 and my Grandpa when I was 30), I still very much remember how good it felt to be loved by them.
When I experienced my most panicked and out-of-my wits feelings, I would access and call up the feeling of love and protection they showed me when I was little. This love transcends time and space, so it still protects me and keeps me safe always.
Question: How does someone shake the panic / anxiety from traumatizing events they can’t UNsee? or UNfeel?
Answer: A haunting, traumatizing image is just that- an image. And as such, it is NOT REAL, and not happening right NOW. And you ABSOLUTELY DO have the power to NOT add to it, NOT to make it into something worse than it is.
You sever the link by turning your focused attention to something good instead.
You have the power to turn away from traumatic thoughts and images and focus instead on warm and loving things- the love of your children, the love of your friends, the love you felt for your beloved animals past and present, the love of a parent or partner. This you can do, and it feels much more pleasant than focusing on a nightmare image and the thoughts that go with it.
(BTW, calling up the feelings of warmth, love and protection are scientifically proven to help you. I learned a lot about this when I read Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom)
Listening to a Guided Meditation can help lul you back to peaceful sleep. Here is an excellent one:
**Never, ever forget that you are more powerful than anxiety.**
And you can let go of the fear of night terrors and panic.
Yes that’s right. Because now you are in the driver’s seat, taking great care of yourself.
I’m telling you to give yourself permission to just go to bed and lay there and rest. If sleep comes, great. But if it doesn’t, at least you are resting. Remember: you can do anything for a few hours. So lay there and rest.
Lack of sleep from being nervous is not going to harm you.
You may have to practice resting at night and having a few bad nights with little sleep. Within a few nights, believe me, eventually anxiety loses and you will sleep. Your body’s inner physiology takes over and you will eventually sleep.
Ok readers, now it’s your turn– what do you have to say about dealing with night terrors, haunting, disturbing images, and having panic attacks in your sleep? Please share your experiences and what helped you so we all can benefit.
Wishing you peaceful rest always,