How to Recover After Having a Really Scary Nightmare

A scary nightmare can be really jarring, and can sometimes bring on anxious or depressive feelings. Lifehacker sought advice from two psychiatrists on how best to deal with the aftermath of a nightmare so it doesn’t ruin your day:

  • Why we can feel depressed or anxious after a nightmare. Because dreams feel so real, the emotional effects, both the good and bad, follow us into our waking state. Dreams are “the best VR simulator around,” says psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu.
  • Step 1 of recovering from a nightmare. The first thing to do is to acknowledge the anxiety and other negative feelings, says psychiatrist Dion Metzger. Anxiety is natural and nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Step 2 of recovering from a nightmare. The next thing to do is try and process the dream contents. “The goal in the morning is not to bury the feelings, but to confront them—to journal, to discuss, and to give them some time and thought,” Dimitriu says. “The goal of most therapy, and certainly in dealing with nightmares, is to confront the fear.”
  • Step 3 of recovering from a nightmare. Make sure to get up and start your day, don’t sit in bed stewing over the negative emotions.