Whenever I get stressed out because I’m juggling too many projects or I get overwhelmed with guidelines, I have a stress dream.
The first time I experienced this type of dream it was just a replay of something that really happened to me. I was in high school, a minor character in the school musical “Anne of Green Gables”, and I completely blanked on the lines of my song during a dress rehearsal. Thank goodness it was just for the elementary school kids and not “the real thing”.
That day, on stage, I was Miss Stacey, and I stood there dumbfounded while my fellow actors did the best they could to sing my lines and cover up my memory lapse. Even as they sang I couldn’t remember the words. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time, even though I had rehearsed it dozens of times!
When I got off stage everybody was questioning me as to what happened. I truly did not understand my condition. It was my French teacher, who was also our voice coach, who pointed out the likely reason for my amnesia: being the overachieving teenager I probably had too much on my plate.
You see, not only was I in the school play, I was also the editor of the yearbook, on student council, and on the prom committee. I played volleyball, had a part-time job as a lifeguard. And oh yes, I was a straight a student.
Eventually I did just fine during the three other performances. But the recollection of the episode became a nightmare that stayed with me for many, many years.
Now I realize the purpose of this dream is to alert me, in case I haven’t noticed, to the dangers of having too much on my plate: I just won’t perform. I won’t be able to “sing my heart out” the way I am meant to do. (Now let’s be clear, I wasn’t ever a good singer. I’m just meaning this figuratively here; singing is what we all do when we are doing our life’s work!)
Interestingly the dream has evolved for me. It’s never really about being on stage anymore; it’s about juggling priorities and whatever I’m juggling, I’m missing important deadlines.
I never used to get much out of my stress dreams, except maybe more stress. I often woke up tired and groggy. But now I have noticed that solutions sometimes are coming to me in my dreams! It seems like over the years my brain has evolved to show me different ways to solve my problems!
For instance one night the dream was about my having to return whole bunch of calls to clients in a hotel sales department that had been decimated by absenteeism. No one was there to return clients calls, except me.
My dream showed me that I should gather everything in one place (there were little pink message slips everywhere) and sit down at one desk instead of roaming around and call each person systematically. This was my sleeping brain giving me advice!
It’s probably because I know what to do now. As an adolescent I really had never been taught how to juggle priorities, manage my time, and say no. I so desperately wanted to be popular and and do well, that I had no idea how to say no.
Now, I do know. It’s not always easy, but at least I know how.
What happens to you when you have too much on your plate? Do you have stress dreams too? Can you even sleep? Leave a comment below!