Having Stress Dreams? Here's What They Mean + What To Do
In today's fast-paced environment, many of us walk around feeling stressed during all hours of the day. We place unreasonably high demands on ourselves to be bigger and better in everything we do, and we often end up taking on a few too many projects.
Stress can easily turn into both emotional and physical illnesses, so taking a mindful approach to a stressful situation, and honoring how you really feel could end up saving your life, perhaps many times over. One of the most optimum ways to reduce your stress levels is dream work.
Why it's important to pay attention to your dreams.
Dreams flow into our lives with immense emotional energy and insightful messages. If you're not sure why you're feeling stressed or are confused about why you are having a worrisome gut feeling, a powerful way of listening deeper to yourself is embracing your dreams. As the vast majority of our dreams tend to represent ourselves, we can learn a lot about our state of well-being from our dreams, not to mention our different personalities and emotional patterns.
The good news is we all dream, and you get a new chance to listen to your dreams every morning. We have an average of three to five dreams per night. Over the course of a life span, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, so not paying attention to your dreams—maybe even dismissing them altogether, may seem a bit narrow-minded from this perspective.
If you are going through a stressful time in your life, chances are you will have had some stressful dreams as well. Feeling stressed in your waking life could leave you feeling overwhelmed and sometimes even overpowered, and you will carry these feelings with you into dreamland. If you don't reduce your stress levels, your stress could develop into anxiety, and ultimately depression, so you definitely want to listen to your dreams whenever you feel that stress holds control over your sense of well-being and happiness.
By mindfully listening to your dreams and noticing what's really going on in your life, you develop a wonderful sense of self-acceptance and self-understanding, which in turn leads to warm feelings of inner connection, a beautiful sense of self-love, and unconditional compassion for both yourself and others.
From working with guests at Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort, I get to experience so many beautiful healing wonders from dream work. Anxiety and stress are probably the two most common emotional ailments I come across. Anxiety often arises when we seek outer approval because we don't really know who we are. We are constantly trying to please and impress people around us. Dream work takes care of this problem by beautifully bringing us back into our heart. I have also seen clients who just felt outright depleted and bored. By opening up the door to their dreams they reconnected with a part of themselves they had forgotten. This is the soul connection we all long and yearn for. Our dreams help connect us to our soul's home. I believe the golden key here is the higher awareness that we are gifted from dream work. By reaching higher awareness, we begin to truly see who we are, and this is when we are finally able to heal.
What your stress dreams may mean.
Your dreams are uniquely yours. The best dream dictionary is therefore one that you write yourself—based on your associations with symbols and scenes. Also, how you feel in the dream is more important than the event itself. If you, for example, are walking around naked in a dream and feeling comfortable and happy, that is naturally a very different meaning from finding yourself naked in front of a big crowd and feeling exposed. When looking at stressful dreams, I therefore like to first focus on the energy and feelings in the dream rather than just focusing on the symbols and events.
Even though all dreams are personal, there are some dream themes that tend to show up in times of trouble. A dream scene that could come around in times of stress is finding ourselves in a classroom, being presented with an exam we haven't studied for. This is a clear sign of being overwhelmed and feeling unprepared. Or likewise, you may dream of presenting a project in the boardroom, and suddenly realize the project is a lot bigger than you initially thought, and now you are feeling small and overpowered. Reflect upon what it is that makes you feel this way. In which context have you recently experienced a similar sensation? Then ask yourself how you can be better prepared for whatever the task is at hand in your waking life. Sometimes just writing down what we need fills us with a sense of empowerment.
Another stressful dream is being chased. The remarkable thing about dreams with chasing elements is that the character in the dream who is doing the chasing is often ourselves. In these situations it is very beneficial to undertake some honest self-reflection. Could you be living in denial? Are you facing your fears? Are you running away from someone or something in your life? Could there be something you are doing yourself that makes you feel uncomfortable?
If your teeth are falling out in a dream, and you feel panicked over the occurrence, this could be another strong warning sign that you are stressed right now. This kind of dream could come about if you feel insecure, or like you've lost your power in waking life. Our dreams often symbolize our ability to process challenges in life. If your teeth are falling out, perhaps you're not coping as well as you thought. What can you do to be gentler with yourself and perhaps ease the workload?
What's the deal with nightmares?
If you have a nightmare, rest assured it is here to help you. When a nightmare comes around, it is time for you to heal. Nightmares bring urgent attention to something that needs to change in our lives. They could also come about because you need to process your feelings more. As soon as you acknowledge what is going on, the healing path opens. Nightmares tend to show up when we have ignored an unhealthy situation in our lives too long. That's why it's so good to regularly listen to your dreams.
If you often attract similar types of stressful situations into your life, chances are you are stuck in a behavioral energy pattern. Once we are woven into a behavioral pattern, we tend to attract similar situations until we learn to transcend the pattern. These kinds of reactions can only be understood and transcended once we are able to view ourselves from a new lens. Dreams help us see ourselves from a higher perspective.
As with most things in life, when we put our mind on something, this is also the direction we take. When we honor our dreams, it becomes exciting to go to sleep—so you will not only end up feeling less stressed, but you will sleep better as well.
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.