Tips on anger and stress management for satisfying relationships from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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Insomnia frustrates Hudson

It was getting to be a bit much. The constant waking up in the early hours, or just not being able to get off to sleep at all. His mind just wouldn’t shut down. It seemed to start just as he was closing his eyes, hoping to sleep. The intrusive thoughts were relentless now that he wasn’t focusing on anything else. It was as if they delighted in using the space in his brain to torment him. He thought about what he should have said and done, what he would do next time, what might happen, what others may think and worried over other scenarios that his imagination foisted on him.

Insomnia made Hudson feel out of control and unable to enjoy life

Sleepless nights turned into weeks of irritability and stress. He wished he could stop worrying about his girlfriend’s commitment to their relationship. The thought of restful sleep was alluring, but anxiety kept his mind spinning. He went over their conversations imagining the outcome if he had said one thing rather than another. He was trying to undo mistakes in his mind, or he was way ahead in the future preparing for bad things that may happen. All the good sleep hygiene rules that he followed failed to help him relax and fall asleep.

He found it hard to relax and enjoy any moment for fear he would take his eye off the ball and land up in a big mess. Stress induced insomnia, brought on more stress and that in turn made sleeping less likely.

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Stress and negative childhood experiences are precursors to insomnia

A report published in Stress and Health, 2012 found that childhood but not adolescent stress was strongly linked to shorter sleep periods, longer times before falling off to sleep and more movements during sleep for individuals that continued well into adult life. Prolonged childhood stress predisposes adults to sleep disturbance irrespective of later life stresses and later onset anxiety and or depression.

 

A study published in 1981 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine found that the onset of insomnia coincided with stressful life events such as losses and illnesses compared to good sleepers. The childhood experiences of insomniac’s were most likely to be characterized by

1. Poor relationships with their parents.

2. Discontent with the quality of family relationships.

3. Less than satisfying relationships with friends and colleagues as they became adults.

Hudson had little contact with his biological father, and felt guilty and ungrateful if he wanted to spend time with him. Relationships were precarious, inconsistent and unreliable, making him very insecure. He believed he had to make family members happy at all times. He He never learned how to regulate feelings since no one spoke about it or modeled it for him. Everything was seen through a rigid prism of constraint in order to remain in the family circle. He was terrified and consumed with anxiety that if he lost control of his anger it would get the better of him, resulting in permanent loss of all significant relationships.

Hudson’s anxiety about not being able to make relationships leads to insomnia

As an adult Hudson was having the same trouble making good solid connections with women and friends. He had no good models to learn from, and just kept repeating the same pattern of failure. His efforts became forced, stemming from fear and a need to control. The harder he tried the worse the results. Failure led to more stress showing up in long periods of insomnia.

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

How can Hudson improve relationships and sleep again?

1. Take one moment at a time and be fully in it.

2. Focus on other people’s interest in him without trying to mold or control it.

3. Tune into the calmness and purity of the connection that has no expectations or demands.

4. Check in with himself and feel what he wants at that moment. Go with it as near to the time of awareness as possible.

5. Notice that nothing bad is happening in that present moment.

Hudson succeeds in relationships and gets to sleep!

Hudson practiced these steps while in psychotherapy and was amazed at his ability to tolerate uncertainty from one minute to the next. He began to enjoy the relationships he was building without expecting the worst. He learned that being himself was enough for others and now he is trying to make it enough for himself. As a result the stress hormones in his system abated, making it easier for him to sleep.