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Hi, my name is Emily Simonian and I’m a licensed clinician at Thriveworks in Washington DC. The question that was asked was, “Why am I having strange dreams during covid?” And that’s a great question because since the Coronavirus outbreak, I’m sure a lot of us have experienced a roller coaster of emotions and maybe even unpleasant experiences like strange dreams or nightmares.
Life as we know it has essentially been disrupted, so it’s not surprising to think that there’s been an emotional health disruption for many of us as well. What we know about sleep, based on research, is that dreams serve multiple functions for us like problem solving, processing memories, helping us to relieve stress and maybe even helping us to cope with emotional distress. So during the time when fear and stress is a normal reaction to what’s going on, when we might be feeling helpless or sad or out of control, we’re having to sit with the uneasiness that comes with not knowing when or how this is all going to resolve.
It makes sense that the unconscious, our subjective map of reality, is working overtime, trying to process everything that’s happening around us and of course we’re doing and feeling and trying to process all of it without our usual routine and structure, which is hard. It’s really hard. So I would suggest first, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a really challenging time for everyone. It’s like trying to do what I would call emotional Olympics. And maybe think about (if you haven’t already) trying to establish a new temporary routine. We know that routine is really good for helping to reduce stress and it’s good for our sleep habits.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need right now, whether that’s in your workplace with friends, with family, reach out to loved ones. Really, really utilize your support system. And finally, I would challenge you to think about a time historically when you have been challenged and maybe successfully navigated through that challenge. Think about what your self-care strategies were, your unique coping skills, your unique strengths because we’re all going to process things differently and we all relax differently.
But I think, you know, drawing on your unique strengths is going to be helpful because I think we all intuitively and instinctively know best how to help ourselves.
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