According to an interview with a sleep expert and clinical professor of psychology at the most prestigious university in the country, between twenty and fifty per cent of people have had at least one academic anxiety dream in their lifetime.
You know the one. It’s where you show up late to class for the final exam of and realize that you’re completely unprepared.
I have this dream often. Typically when I’m anxious about some performance or project or in my waking life. And it always follows the same script. It’s the end of the semester and I have nothing to show for myself. No homework. No notes. Nothing.
And so, I freeze. I feel helpless and overwhelmed. And just when I start scrambling my way back to conscientiousness, I wake up. Usually short of breath. At which point, I remind myself that it was all a dream and everything is going to be fine.
What a way to start the day.
What’s interesting, though, is that this dream can actually invert when you’ve recently completed a certain phase of development or growth in your life. I remember when I spent two days recording hours and hours of audio and video footage for my second music film. It was deeply fulfilling, creative and fun, but also exhausting and expensive and excessive.
By the end of the weekend, I could barely function. But to my surprise and delight, the night we wrapped production, I had the opposite of an academic anxiety dream.
This time, sitting at my desk, staring at the exam, I felt calm and relaxed and competent and confident and capable of using my skills to get the job done. I arrived early, I finished on time, and I enjoyed the process in between. My professor even pulled me aside after class to ask if I would consider being captain of his competitive problem solving team.
No anxiety there.
I snoozed my alarm four times just to go back under and see what happened next.
The point is, not all exam dreams are frightening. Especially if your waking life is growing and moving forward and taking on new challenges.
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