I'm in the supermarket, walking up and down the aisles. I look up, and I see many angry faces, all directed at me. I don't understand what's happening until I realize I'm not wearing a mask. My heartbeat gets faster, and I feel so embarrassed. I also feel vulnerable. How did I leave my home without my mask? I try to be so careful. I can't believe how irresponsible I'm being. I then open my eyes and find that once again, I'm having a bad dream. It turns out I'm not the only one. Psychologists are reporting a significant uptick in covid related dreams.
From WebMD: "Vivid dreams about bug attacks top the list of crazy COVID-19 nightmares, says Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., a Harvard psychologist and dream researcher who launched an international survey about pandemic-related dreams. From "swarms of wasps, flies, and gnats to armies of roaches and wiggly worms," bug attacks are "by far the most common metaphor" seen in the more than 8,000 dreams reported on her survey since March. I think part of it traces to the slang use of the word; we say we have a bug to mean we have a virus," says Barrett. "Dreams can be kind of pun-like in using visual images for words."
Dreams play a major role in helping us deal with stress and anxiety. Our subconscious mind is working overtime in trying to help us with emotional overload. We're bombarded daily with news of this pandemic and how quickly it spreads. We're concerned about our family and friends, and we miss not being able to see each other. It's no wonder that our dreams reflect that worry.
Sleep is a vital component to our overall health and well-being. Most of us are suffering from lack of sleep because we're feeling anxious. I find myself waking up quite a bit throughout the night. Sometimes I can get back to sleep, but other times it seems impossible. My mind races with worst-case scenarios, and the more I try to make it stop, the crazier it gets. I've written in the past, ways to get a better night's rest, but I think an update is in order in these uncertain times.
Disconnect. I know we all want to look at our phones for messages or cat videos, but with it comes upsetting news. It's hard to ignore. Turn off the tv, computer, and your Dick Tracy watch. Put your phone on silent or switch notifications off. This will keep your phone from dinging and the impulse to check it. Instead, read a good book or flip through a magazine. Give your mind something pleasant to absorb in place of the apocalypse.
Stretch. In general, exercise alleviates the feeling of dread and replaces it with a better outlook. Gentle stretches before getting into bed will also relax tense muscles. As you move, take slow, deep breaths. This will put you in the present and give you a much-needed break from future concerns.
Meditate. I find meditating works the best for me when I'm trying to fall asleep. If my mind keeps wandering, I'll put on a guided meditation from an app on my phone. Yes, now it's okay to use your phone. Listening to relaxing sounds and quieting our minds will induce a more peaceful rest. Dreams may still happen, but hopefully, they'll be more pleasant.
Call A Friend. I wouldn't suggest calling someone in the middle of the night, but it is a good idea during the day. We're all experiencing uncertainty and feeling fearful. Talking and expressing our worries to others helps us to feel less alone. Being able to chat and have a good laugh is the best remedy of all. If you're having trouble with depression, please consider talking to a professional therapist or psychologist. We can always learn new coping skills.
Nightmares, especially when they feel so real, can stay with us in our waking hours. It can darken our mood and make it hard for us to have hope. We need each other and reaching out to family and friends is essential. Check-in with your loved ones and ask about their emotional well-being. Communication is vital for us to get through this.
My latest dreams are better. Instead of finding myself in a room full of strangers without my mask, I have the more normal dream of being naked instead. I'm just glad I'm not dreaming about bugs. Cheers to happier times ahead.