Tips on Fighting Hyper-Vigilance
Today, I went to see my new psychiatrist and she pointed something out to me that I hadn’t noticed before- practically all of my sleep problems come from hyper-vigilance. This realization was comforting for me- once I know what or why I’m so freaked out, I can assemble a strategy to help myself.
What is hypervigilance?
——It’s most often an effect of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or general anxiety. With hyper-vigilance, I tend to imagine that I’m up high in a tower like the Tower of Sauron, obsessively scouring the earth below and taking everything as a possible serious danger/threat.
Think about the last scary movie you saw or the last panic attack you had that honestly scared the crap out of you. Maybe afterward you couldn’t sleep, you jumped at the slightest sound, you wanted to turn on all the lights, and you’re skin felt prickly with anxious anticipation.
This is hyper-vigilance. It isn’t your fault that you’re reacting this way- your mind and body are trying to protect you by keeping you at red alert (a state of exacerbated fight-or-flight). But obviously, this type of behavior is EXHAUSTING, leaving you miserable while not really safeguarding/preparing you at all for difficult experiences.
I found some great tips to help fight hyper-vigilance via an article by Heather Stone, Ph.D. She advises:
———-“Remember that as a child, you instinctively knew how mature adults ought to behave — morally, responsibly, and appropriately. As you were developing into an adult, the younger part of you has constantly been watching. It hasn’t been just watching other adults, it has been watching you. The child inside of you is still hoping that you will be that kind of adult, someone he or she can be proud of.
"Trust that your wise and competent presence has existed throughout your life, and knows how to respond in every present moment. It has all the information in every moment to know exactly what to do. Hyper-vigilance is not helping to prepare you for anticipated or unanticipated events. Mindfulness will help you, with the presence of your wise and caring inner adult. If the adult part of you is warm and compassionate, the child part will feel reassured and healed — so long as it can feel this presence.
"So, don’t disappear. Move calmly into the driver’s seat. Not only is it good to rise up above the other adults who have failed you in the past, it is important that you make your strong and benevolent presence known. Assure your inner child that this competent presence is here — finally here — and this will make all the difference in the world.”
———-“Your task is to refrain from searching so desperately for evidence of harm. If something needs your attention, I assure you that you will find out about it in a “normal” kind of way; the way we eventually find out about things. Not because we were repeatedly checking to see whether everything was safe, but rather because things that are relevant simply become known. Learn to live with ambiguity. Relax into knowing that, without hypervigilance, you have relatively complete and accurate information. The ambiguity that is in and around you is an unclear, imperfect, benign presence that can be trusted and accepted.
"What’s more, the Unknown that you fight so vehemently – that you fear, blame, rail against, and pray would become Real so that it could finally leave you alone – is often better than every known thing you have ever wanted to control. Let me put it another way: every good thing in your life that surprised you was previously unknown to you. You didn’t anticipate or create the people who showed up and loved you. You didn’t manage or direct the gifts that you were given, either literally or metaphorically. Live with the Unknown, because the stuff that will make you happy will be the stuff that you never could have predicted.”
This helps me a lot, I hope it helps you too =) I’m working solely off my iPad for now so I can’t place fancy links into a word/phrase, but if you want to look at Stone’s site, this is the URL: http://www.drheatherstone.com/articles/hypervigilance.html