I have a fear of burglars. I am often awake until three in the morning because I am shaking and have a rapid heartbeat from feeling so terrified. I live in a good part of town, but it’s in the country. I feel so paranoid. Even though this has never happened to me, I'm just sure it will. What can I do to get a restful night of sleep?
Your fear is based both in what you know and what you don't know. It sounds like you know what could happen if a burglar broke in, but you don't know how likely that is or what to do if it did happen.
Don't be so quick to jump on what you do know (burglars break into houses) or so quick to dismiss the other thing you know (that it's never happened to you). Do be quick to use what you know (burglars break into houses) to resolve what you don't know (what you can do to prevent it and what you would do if it happened).
While arming yourself with knowledge won't literally arm you, it's worth considering given how much sleep you've lost over something that hasn't happened. In this, knowledge would be the first place to start. If knowledge, coupled with whatever security measures you could reasonably afford, doesn't make you feel better, looking into counseling might be the answer. The counselor might suggest medication that would help you sleep in addition to working through your fears.
Sleep medication is a slippery slope. A good rule of thumb is that if you need it for more than a three to five nights, you’re not effectively addressing what left you sleepless in the first place.
Ask your local law enforcement agency about the crime rate. You might be surprised to find out how infrequently these things happen or you’ll learn how the police were able to foil a burglar every time they even got so far as in town, much less in someone's house or business. Too, they can tell you how they are able to catch suspected persons — with dogs, motion sensors, night workers at local businesses — and suggest ways you can protect yourself.
Being physically fit will enable you to feel more confident overall, but especially when it comes to how well you think you could defend yourself. Consider a defense class of some kind. Try anything from karate or kickboxing to a workout routine or dancing to your favorite music. Eating well-balanced meals can help you maintain the energy you’ll need for all that activity, as well as keep your body healthier for a good night’s sleep.
Getting to know your neighbors is also a step in the right direction. Extend yourself to (friendly) neighbors you already know and make an effort to get to know those (friendly neighbors) you don’t know. Get to know your neighbors’ routine and share yours where appropriate.
It may surprise you to find out you live next door to or down the street from the nosiest woman on earth. While this would bother others, someone in your position might just sleep better knowing there is someone in the neighborhood who has no problem calling the cops for every little noise.
Be kind to yourself. You have this fear for a reason. It doesn't matter if the reason is because of an experience or a self-imposed belief with no basis in fact. You feel it – therefore it's real. You've given yourself permission to be fearful – now give yourself permission to do something with it. Find a counselor, get a dog, take a defense class, get active, and talk with your local law enforcement.
Put the same amount of time and effort into abating the fear as you have into feeling the fear. In time, you'll feel less fearful and more empowered.