- Do something physical. Run. Use a punch bag. Swim. Anything safe that gives you a physical release.
- Set time aside for rest whether this involves snoozing or just sitting back in a comfy chair.
- Laugh! Watch whatever T.V. makes you roar. Spend time with friends who make you laugh.
- Breathing exercises. Take long slow breaths, breathing deep from your belly rather than from your chest.
- Slow down! If you are one of those people who seem to rush about like a ‘headless chicken’.
- Try to avoid putting yourself under pressure by working to deadlines.
- Do things that you know you enjoy, whether it’s listening to music, painting, reading…
- Relaxation tapes. They usually involve a combination of deep breathing, muscular relaxation and imagining a pleasant scene. They can be very relaxing. But they’re not for everyone. Bear in mind that if you get deeply relaxed you can also feel like you are not in control. This can be frightening for Survivors who may want to stay in control in order to stay safe. They may also involve closing your eyes or holding your breath, two things which may trigger unpleasant memories of abuse.
There are many ways to reduce feelings of physical tension. Find which ones suit you best. You’ll need to keep working at it but it’s worth it. After all, your body and mind have had years of feeling tense – they deserve a rest!
COPING WITH SLEEP DIFFICULTIES
Men who were abused as boys often experience problems with sleep. These problems can take many forms, including :
- Nightmares about the abuse.
- Waking up in a panic.
- Not being able to get off to sleep.
- Finding that the slightest noise or disturbance wakes you.
- Finding that having sex triggers memories of the abuse.
It’s easy to see why problems might arise at night. You may be feeling almost permanently tensed up and unable to rest. Night time may carry particular memories of abuse. Instead of bedtime being a relaxing ritual, as a child, it may have been the time when you were violated by someone who should have been looking after you. Simply going to bed may be a trigger for bad memories.
Here are some general hints about sleep, rest and bedtime, before we look in more detail at the distressing areas of nightmares and waking in a panic :
- Make sure the place you are going to rest is physically comfortable.
- Use whatever relaxation works for you to decrease tension prior to bedtime.
- Establish some regular habits. This may be difficult. Bedtime may have been spoiled for you as a child by the abuser. Try to establish a new ‘going to bed’ ritual which will break the pattern of fear. This may involve what time you go, whether you read in bed, whether you sleep alone or with a partner, whether you have the light on or off… Experiment and see what you can come up with.