What Your Dreams About Work Really Mean

You know it’s time to eat the rich when capitalism seeps into your dreams. A barrage of phone notifications, imminent deadlines, and passive-aggressive “as per my last email” conversations are meant to stay within the confines of your 40-hour work week. However, many of us find ourselves clocking in longer hours with our office chair than we agreed to. Eighty percent of working Americans feel stress on the job, and 25% believe their jobs are the biggest stressors in their life (via The American Institute of Stress).

We have some more bad news. According to a 2017 study, many won’t find solace in sleep after experiencing stress during the day (via Motivation and Emotion). The lead author of the study Netta Weinstein tells Live Science, “If our lives are very challenging, that seems to repeatedly show and come back to us in the form of dreams.” However, unpacking the IRL stress and anxiety might help make your stay in the dreamscape more pleasant. “Just because dreams are random doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to influence them during the day,” as Dr. Matthew Ebben, a sleep medicine expert, explained to NBC News.

Destress to stop workplace nightmares

The quickest way to make sure you’re not an anxious sleeper is to cut down on caffeine or any other stimulants (like alcohol) a few hours before you’re ready to go to bed (via Sleep Foundation). Tracking your dreams with a journal might also help understand the kind of dreams you’re having, making it easier to know what they mean for you when you’re awake.

If your journal’s filled with dreams about forgetting important things, running late, or sitting through a disappointed supervisor’s speech — it may be an actual manifestation of imposter syndrome or feeling incompetent in the real world (via Motivation and Emotion). Dreaming about being naked at work, meanwhile, can also point to feeling like a fraud; psychologist Michael Lennox tells The Independent that it symbolizes the feeling of “I will be seen for who I really am. And that will be terrifying.” Counterintuitively, if your dreams are just a continuation of the mundane tasks you perform in the office, “that’s just a signal that the work stress is so great that you’re processing it in your sleep,” Lennox says.

Kelly Sullivan Walden, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, offers a coping strategy for those who can’t seem to stop thinking about work: make lists of what you need to get done before you go to bed (via Fast Company). You can also add meditating to your nighttime routine and have “worry time” penciled in (via the Cleveland Clinic). And if none of these work, it’s time to find a new job.

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