6 Min ReadLifestyle 14 February 2018
How can we use what happens in our dreams to learn more about what's happening in our daily lives?
Between deadlines, international travel, speaking engagements, and conference calls, Wendy Lewis, the President of WLCO beauty, an aesthetic marketing firm in New York City, doesn't get a whole lot of sleep. When she does sleep, however, she often has the same dreams. “One is that I am lost and running endlessly in circles," she says. “Sometimes I am cold in this dream because I am not wearing a coat."
Liza Boyd Benson, managing director of a venture capital firm in New York City, also experiences recurring dreams. “I am always late for class or missed an exam," she shares.
“These are very common dreams," explains Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, a dream intuitive in Rensselaerville, NY, and the former dream consultant for People Country Magazine. She specializes in dream interpretation, symbolism and dream incubation—which can help harness the power of dreams and dreaming to overcome professional or personal hurdles.
Let's take the dream of being left out in the cold without a jacket, she says. “This is a position that female executives often find themselves in during their waking life because of the old boy's network," she says. The coat—or lack thereof—likely symbolizes the absence of protection and warmth. “Female executives may find themselves under extreme pressure to perform and to perform better than their male counterparts which is why dreams of running around in endless circles may occur."
There are multiple ways to interpret some common dreams such as being late for a class or missing an entire semester and then showing up on exam day. Some say these dreams undermine confidence, while others suggest they may do the opposite. “These dreams probably started back in school when you were worried about grades or attendance, but it became associated with emotional stress which is why it tends to recur in your adult life," says Scardamalia.
The real question is how does this dream make you feel? “If when you wake, you feel better because you clearly didn't miss class and know deep inside you would never miss a class, it can serve as an affirmation," Scardamalia says. If, however, you wake and your heart is pounding and adrenalin is surging, it is because, on an emotional level, you are worried about falling short, she says.
Dreams are highly personal which is why the best dream dictionary is your dream journal.
Water, water everywhere
Briana MacWilliam is an author, educator, creative arts therapist, Rieki practitioner and an avid dreamer. She also runs an online school for continuing education for licensed creative arts therapists in New York State called CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com.
Water is an overarching theme in her dreams and always has been. “Frequently I am on the ocean or beach, but sometimes I am anticipating a tidal wave. I usually survive it," she shares. “One time I was in the ocean on a boat, and a storm whipped up, almost like a tornado, and it tried to suck me off the boat, but I clung to the mast," she says. “And then a figure appeared and told me the solution would be to let go. So I did, and I woke up." Other water dreams involve her floating just above a black pool of water and cautiously dipping a toe into the darkness. “The water is warm, but I'm absolutely terrified of it."
“Water has to do with emotions, and emotions are something that women may worry about leaving behind when they step into high power, high responsibility positions," she tells SWAAY.
So what would dreaming about water mean? “These dreams come to tell us that we may think we left our emotions behind, but they are coming back like a tidal wave."
This means different things for different women. “The tsunami is coming, but the question to ask is where and why," Scardamalia explains. “It may not be the job. It could be a personal situation that has been shoved in the background," she says. The bottom line? “Somewhere in your waking life, there is an emotional overwhelm and if you don't do something about it you are going to drown."
Snakes often slither into MacWilliam's dreams. Snakes mean different things based on the dreamer and how they feel about them, Scardamalia says. “Symbolism is very personal," she says. “The best dream diary you will ever have is your journal." Look back and see when and how the snake appears to get a better idea of what it portends.
Harnessing the power of your dreams
"You are not powerless," Scardamalia says. "There are many ways to get to the bottom of the dreams that haunt or inspire you."
“Write with your dominant hand as yourself and then use the non-dominant hand as the dream to create a dialogue," she says. “Have a conversation with the wave and say, 'Where are you coming from? Why are you threatening me? What am I not seeing?'" This exercise has proven telling for many people, she says. It can also help us find closure from a bad dream. “We often wake up before we finish the dream and this will help us find the gift in the dream."
Dreaming of people who have passed away is common. The meaning depends on the dream, the context, the emotion around it. “That said, my experience and that of other dreamers and dream teachers is that the dead come to visit, to bring us a resolution to a relationship, to offer advice, assurance, love. Even if someone does not believe in a soul or life after death, the visits of the dead often offer healing and comfort," she says. This is another scenario where journaling may help get at the true meaning.
If there is a question you have in your waking life and would like to dream about it, “write a question and place it under your pillow," she says. "Make your question as clear as possible and allow yourself to fall asleep thinking about it." This is known as incubating a dream. Be patient. If it doesn't work the first time, try again in a few weeks.
Join a dream circle
Conscious dream work. There are basically two kinds of dreams, unconscious and conscious dreams. Scardamalia often runs group dream circles for female CEOS and executives to help teams develop a common vision. “This is a deeper, more magical way of building a dream around a vision," she says. This group exercise involves a dream worker such as Scardamalia who plays a single-headed frame drum as she leads participants on a journey to a common vision. “We set it up based on what the group needs such as the next image for marketing materials or how they see the company evolving."
Look for the pun
“When I first opened my business, I kept having this random dream that all my former bosses were chasing me for some reason," says Megan Driscoll, CEO of EvolveMKD, a New York City-based PR and marketing firm. “It was jarring at first, but then became kind of funny and I'd go to bed each night psyching myself up to outrun them." This dream may be “punning" with the dreamer, says Scardamalia. “It's the idea of out-running her competition (i.e., her former bosses) and may mean that she feels the need to do better than former employers, be smarter, more forward-thinking, and faster and going to bed at night psyching herself up to outrun them; it probably helped her motivate."
The Iroquois Indians say we dream everything before it happens so if you are paying attention to your dreams, you can get a heads up and be prepared for what is coming There are multiple reports of people who dreamed about 9-11-2001 before it happened, she says. “Pay attention to your dreams as there is no area of your life that you can't use dreams to get unstuck or move forward," she says.
Scardamalia recommends these books for those interested in learning more about dreams and dreaming.
The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant
All About Dreams by Gayle Delayney
Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung
Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss
The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker
The Tower in the Woods: Dreaming Your Creativity Awake by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia
This piece was originally published on February 14, 2018.
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.