At the end of a holiday and on Sunday nights, I will often have anxiety dreams about the subsequent return to work. They may involve forgetting a crucial item, inadequate preparation, or another similarly important failure, but their reasoning is the same; the stress of the following day is playing on my mind.
Outside of work, I also suffer from these dreams if I pressure myself to perform, typically in the build-up to a race. I have lost count of the number of times I have turned up to the start of a marathon, realised I have forgotten my shoes/race number/vest/lucky socks*, but carried on regardless, and then woken up. Tony Audenshaw (of Marathon Talk’sTony’s trials) suggests this is a good thing as it ensures extra preparation – and those mishaps will not occur during the event itself. However, it is true that I have never** turned up to a race without any of those aforementioned items.
I had a similar dream this week. I had just met the people joining me on my next challenge and we were discussing our preparations. I was talking through some of the things I had brought with me and realised I had forgotten my camera. While I acknowledge this isn’t the greatest of catastrophes, it was obviously playing on my mind.
Further into the dream, it also transpired that I had forgotten any electrical cables, so I wouldn’t be able to charge other electronic devices. This upset me further as I could not figure out how to use my phone to make calls and take photos, as there was no way that the battery would last the duration. Wanting to give no indication of any weakness, I kept all signs of panic to myself.
That was until someone pulled out a map of the route.
For the most part, the route largely looked as I had anticipated. However, further scrutiny indicated a shear drop the other side of the track I would be running along. I would have to spend the duration of the event contending with the fear that one wrong step would result in me plunging to my imminent death***. I couldn’t understand how I had made such a significant oversight.
It was soon after this that my alarm woke me up.
I know exactly why I had this dream, and can analyse every single aspect. It is the natural pressure that I put on myself and the subsequent anxiety that I hope to perform. Nerves are normal and a good thing in that they demonstrate a comprehension of the magnitude of the task in hand. From conversations with other people (well, runners and teachers), I know that I am not alone in these kinds of dreams. However, this dream was different to any other that I have ever had for a single fact that frustrates me.
It is one year until the event is due to take place. Am I seriously going to have to contend with these dreams throughout 2013?
*I don’t even have any lucky socks
** to date
*** the waiver I have to sign states “falling off the trail could cause severe injury or death”, but nothing about shear drops greater than 1000m, as implied by my dream