Last month, I dreamed I was working in downtown Denver. (I worked there about ten years.) I was hurrying down the 16th Street Mall to catch a bus to take me home to the south suburbs. I got on the bus and tried to find a schedule, but there wasn’t one. The bus flew (like a plane) over Coors Field. It flew west of I-25, then headed south. I didn’t recognize the route. Eventually, the flying bus headed east, and I recognized a high school. The bus finally stopped at an office complex. I got off the bus, but I could still see the passengers who stayed on the bus and where they were going. The whole time, I was worried because I had to let my husband know where I was so he could pick me up.
The next night, I dreamed I was in school taking a history test. The teacher warned us to watch our time to make sure we were on track to finish the test. We were given a stack of paper with quotes or statements, and we had to answer whether each statement was true or false. Each page had a one-word clue. When done answering the questions, we were supposed to arrange the clues from the right answers into one long sentence. I was shaking with fear that I wouldn’t finish the test on time. (History is not my best subject.) As I struggled to answer the questions, a few of the other kids were going up to the chalkboard to assemble their words. I couldn’t even tell how much time I had left because every time I looked at my watch, it said the same thing.
I know why I was having stressful dreams. I am an accountant. January is the start of my busy season. I get stressed by the deadlines. My dreams reflect my anxiety.
I have always been fascinated by dreams. I am amazed at how active the brain is when we sleep. Having a couple of stressful dreams in a row got me to wondering about anxiety dreams. In an article about How to Prevent Anxiety Dreams, I learned that when you are stressed, you spend more time in REM sleep, which is when we dream. When you are stressed, your body produces more cortisol.
The article suggested writing anxiety dreams down to help make sense of your thoughts and emotions. Take some deep breaths. Talk to someone. Make a plan. I wrote my dreams down. I told myself, this is temporary. This too, will pass. You’ve been through stressful times at work before and everything got done. Even when things went wrong, you got through them. And I reminded myself that if I needed to, I could put in extra hours on the weekend.
An article about common stress dreams says that stressful dreams can be beneficial. If you dream that you’ve lost something or you’re late or you can’t finish the test, your brain may be rehearsing things that might go wrong. This helps you deal with stress in real life. In a study, students who had stressful dreams did better than those who didn’t.
Writing my dreams down helped process my anxiety. Having a plan and knowing that I have some control over my situation helped me cope with my stress. Having a trusted friend to talk to, even in the middle of the night – that’s even better! Prayer brings a peace that transcends all understanding.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7