Have you ever woken up in the morning with that sick feeling – but you can’t put your finger on exactly why? This icky feeling – sometimes called an “anxiety hangover” – is surprisingly common, especially after an anxiety dream.
For the uninitiated, this phenomena, while less potent than a nightmare, refers to an unnerving dream that can cause anxiety to leak into the next day.
While often unique, they tend to revolve around feelings of being exposed, unprepared or out of control, and are often spurred on during particularly anxiety-inducing periods in our lives – say a break-up, moving house or a new job. And of course, sometimes they pop up out of the blue, with neither rhyme nor reason.
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Common anxiety dreams might include being naked in public, walking into a meeting or onto a stage without being prepared, or trying to solve an impossible equation over and over without ever actually cracking the code.
And while often these dreams appear to carry no clear relevancy to reality, psychologist Isadora Alman says they should not necessarily be dismissed as they might be trying to tell us something.
Instead, we should try to identify the root cause of these feelings and how they might relate to our current situation, she suggests. “Trying to identify the feeling state is often a good way to interpret your dreams,” she writes in Psychology Today.
“Is the specific anxiety—feeling naked, trapped, exposed, unprepared—reflected in any way that is familiar to you? Are you dealing with it effectively?
“Reassuring yourself that you are taking steps to prepare yourself or manage a challenge at hand can allow you to start the day without that anxious dream hangover that often plagues those of us who don’t quite remember our dreams but must suffer an emotional fallout with no clear idea of what caused it.”
Psychologist and dreams expert Ian Wallace previously told the Telegraph that the common anxiety dream of missing a plane or a train “indicates that you feel you may be missing some opportunity to fulfil a particular ambition in waking life”.
The good news is such dreams need not be threatening. In fact, dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg says it’s important to engage with them, and you should instead think of them as your “inner guru”: “advising you” and “smacking you in the face when you mess up”.
They can used to your advantage as metaphors to think about what you’re doing in real life. Whether that’s prompting you to take ownership over particular areas of your life, tackle a new project or better manage your stress.