How to combat anxiety dreams

By Caitriona McMahon

There I stand top to toe in armour, a shield in my left hand sword in the right. Today zero threats will get past the gate to my mind on my watch. I’ve done the extensive training leading to this very moment. The gruelling months of crawling through muck, climbing over fears until I could no longer stand and even some diving into the unknown. There’s a sense of pride as I stand tall knowing I’m ready for whatever may come. In the off chance something that may require a little more muscle appears I’ve even prepared reinforcements.

Army tanks otherwise known to me as CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy, weaponry (meditation) the whole shebang is on standby. Nothing can be left to chance, as one breach in the parameter can lead to a full panic attack something I’m not leaving to chance.

What are these threats I speak of? They are “thoughts” and more specifically anxiety thoughts. In all the preparing and training guided by professionals, I was never told of how sneaky these ‘thoughts’ can be. Cunning and sly, they wait, and then wait some more to suss out weaknesses.

I realised just how sneaky they could be for the first time one morning at 4am when I jolted upright in the bed, sweating, crying, terrified.

I was in bed but the experience I had was so real. Was it real? Was I asleep? I felt it, I smelt the fear and heard the terror.

After doing some research I discovered that often because in a conscious state we can fight off these anxious thoughts, they will sometimes wait until we are in a subconscious or sleeping state to make their move. In that state the experience feels 100 per cent real, the emotional distress, the panic, the worry every bit real and when I wake I don’t know if it’s real or I dreamt it ,its quite frankly terrifying.

In the past week again I’ve had a lot of these anxiety dreams but thankfully over time I have found personal ways that help me cope and possibly they can help you too.

For example I keep a diary. Before bed I make notes reassuring myself all is okay if it is and so on. This may seem ridiculous to some but frankly I’d use anything if it helps ease the turmoil of waking up in that terror.  

Then when I wake after an anxiety dream I read this entry which helps. Also I jot down details from the dream that prove it was not real. These are all ways of challenging the thought processes that lead to a fully induced panic attack.

It is my belief that every experience leaves an imprint. Some imprints which have left negative feelings behind can take longer for our mind to process and carry a lot more energy and emotions. What’s important to note is that we in order to grow from an experience must process it and this is sometimes why even though it may be against our will our mind processes it when we sleep in our best interests.

I’m no dream expert but for me this system is working. It doesn’t remove the fear of closing my eyes not knowing what’s ahead but it does provide reassurance in the aftermath.

“ Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves “ – Henry David Thoreau


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