And what real-life stresstors are causing them
Your kid's not doing well in school. Your workload at your job has doubled because some of your co-workers were let go. You're not sure you're going to be able to pay the rent on time this month. And your mother in-law won't stop meddling. At least you can escape all this stress at bedtime. Right?
Unfortunately, the stress we deal with during the day tends to follow us to bed at night and plays out in our dreams. Can we ever escape? Why yes, yes we can. Our stressed-out dreams are actually giving us clues on how to deal with and manage our waking-life stresses – once we can understand them.
The following are the five most common stress dreams we all experience, what real-life stresses they are connected to, and the lessons they provide.
Missing a Plane or Bus
If this is your stress dream, you're in good company! Diane Sawyer once told me she has this dream. The stress this dream is connected to is deadline stress. Perhaps you're like Diane and your job consists of constant deadlines you have to meet. Otherwise, this dream can be connected to self-imposed deadlines such as losing a certain amount of weight in time for the office holiday party or reaching a career goal by a certain age, etc.
The Lesson: Time is slippery and often gets away from us. This dream is letting you know you'd best be on your toes and learn how to manage your time and do what is necessary so you can meet that deadline or grab that opportunity when it comes your way – because it will be here before you know it.
Losing Your Car or Your Car Gets Stolen
This stress dream is connected to uncertainty or loss of motivation. Your car represents your “drive" and motivation to continue to move forward in some area. If this is your stress dream, you need to ask yourself what in your life you no longer have the desire to continue with. Is it your job? A relationship? A project? If that doesn't fit, ask yourself what is causing you to feel uncertain and directionless. Maybe you can't find a job and no longer know what to do. Or perhaps your kids are unruly and you don't know which path to take in order to deal with them.
The Lesson: Whether it's lack of motivation or uncertainty, your dreaming mind wants you to find a new path, and get your drive or mojo back, which is why it keeps taking your car away from you in your dream. Time to try something different because the direction you are headed in now isn't going to get you anywhere.
If this is your stress dream then you have something in common with CNN's Piers Morgan because he has it too! The stress this dream is connected to is being overwhelmed by too many responsibilities. Just as the tidal wave surges over your head and threatens to sweep you away, you are getting in over your head in waking life responsibilities that threaten to pull you away from any down time. Less often, this dream can be connected to an emotional situation that is overwhelming you. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, these dreams can be a heads up that another bout is on the way – so prepare!
The Lesson: Like the wave, your dream is showing you that your responsibilities or your anxiety are getting bigger than you are. It's time to take something off your plate, ask for help, or delegate some of your responsibilities to someone else. If it's anxiety or depression, make plans to go see a comedy or spend some time outside with friends who make you laugh. Like the wave, if you don't lighten your load or lighten your mood, you are headed for a crash!
Back at School and Can't Find Your Class or Locker
To be fair, there are tons of variations of the back-at-school dream, so I conducted a poll on my Facebook fan page to find out which variation is the most common. Not being able to find your class or locker came in at number one. Almost all back-at-school dreams can be connected to job stress; however, the one where you can't find your class or locker is more specifically connected to the stress of not being where you feel you should be in your career or job.
Your locker is your place at school because it is designated for just you, and your class is where you need to be and show up on time. When you can't find your locker or your class in a dream, it's a good indication you are feeling uncertain of your place at work or even uncertain of your career choice. In these dreams we tend to feel the pressure of finding our locker and getting to our class before the bell rings. That's the slippery element of time showing up in our dreams again, which suggests we feel time is running out on us in real life, and we need to get ourselves where we need to be in the career department before it's too late.
The Lesson: Time is certainly of the essence. Life is short and we shouldn't spend it miserable and unfulfilled with our job. Time to find a job you enjoy going to or, at the very least, in these tough times, find a way to make your current job or current situation meaningful. Ask how you can be more helpful to your co-workers or others around you. Ask your boss to give you an opportunity to put your creative side to use. When you find a way to make your current situation more fulfilling, these dreams will finally stop.
This is the classic stressed-to-the-max dream! This dream is not connected to any one particular stress, but rather is a warning sign that you are on complete overload. You see, your house, to the dreaming mind, is you! It is your state of mind, your personality construct. If your house, or any house for that matter, is on fire in a dream, it means you have reached a frantic state of mind and are in urgent need of a cool down.
The Lesson: You are on the verge of being completely and utterly “burnt out." Your dreaming mind can't scream any louder than this dream, so now more than ever you must get some me-time. Have the kids stay the night with grandma, turn your phone off – whatever it takes, just find a way to unwind before you become a burnt-out hollow shell of yourself.
Stress and anxiety are growing problems in this day and age. And as Dr. Oz has told us many times, if the stress levels in our bodies gets too high, our health will falter. Pay attention to your dreams because they can let you know what is going on with your health and stress before you notice the signs.
Keeping a dream journal in tandem with a day journal will help you connect the dots between your stress dreams and the waking events that trigger them. Being able to monitor and manage your stress, depression and anxiety is the key to overcoming them, and your dreams are happy to help you out!
By Lauri Quinn Loewenberg
Author of Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life