What Do Stress Dreams Mean? 6 Common Nightmares & What They May Mean About Your Stress Levels

Dreams are a funny thing. Some mornings, you’ll wake up in a fog, unable to remember anything your imagination directed throughout the night, while others, you wake up in a cold sweat trying to understand what do stress dreams mean, and what real-life problems are they stemming from? The horrifying visions dancing in our heads are the ones that stand out the most to us, and this is simply just another example of how life isn’t fair, folks. The good dreams fade minutes after we wake, and the bad dreams are the ones that linger, ultimately worsening our anxiety. Awesome, right?

Unless you’re the type or person to obsess over bad omens or google details from your dreams to dig deeper into their symbolic meanings, most of us brush off stress dreams like dirt on our shoulders. It’s true, dreams aren’t “real,” but they are heavily based on true emotions. Our minds use dreams as a coping mechanism, a reality check, or as a method of sorting out our internal chaos. Why do we fear certain things, and how does it all affect our mental health?

According to Jeffrey Rubin, Ph.D, our dreams are typically based on one of two things: what terrifies us and what enchants us. He tells Elite Daily that dreaming is “the mind’s way of coping with the emotional and physical challenges of living.” And even though we are all fighting separate demons, there are a few common stress dreams we all seem to have as a way for our subconscious to deal. Here are a few to look out for, and what they may mean about your waking life.

1Losing Teeth

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I can honestly say I have never woken up from a dream in stark panic over losing a tooth, but apparently this is one of the most common stress dreams out there.

It turns out, teeth aren't just the tools we use to chew and bite through food. On the contrary, friends, according to True Stress Management, teeth symbolize power. If you're having night visions of losing teeth or watching your teeth fall out, this means you're probably experiencing a difficult problem in life that you can't literally and figuratively "chew" through.

2Baring All In Your Birthday Suit

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Torrence Shipmen in this iconic scene from Bring It On is everyone who has ever endured the common stress dream of being naked in public.

Nudity represents vulnerability, so if you're nervous about striking up a conversation with that cute guy in your psych class, presenting a report in front of a lecture hall, or discussing the possibility of a raise with your boss, you might just experience these nightmarish moments in the nude.

Thankfully you can wake up, put on your clothes, and get the show on the road the right way, but if your dreams include walking around bare naked, interpret it as fear of exposure, not an invitation to strip down.

3Reckless Driving

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Dreaming about either getting behind the wheel and forgetting how to drive, or shot-gunning it with a driver who doesn't know what a straight line is, is definitely what I would consider to be grounds for nightmare status.

Ever listened to Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel?" Well, this dream scenario is basically your subconscious asking you to get a hold on a real-life situation, whether it be the road to your literal success, or responsibilities you've been slacking on.

4Free Falling

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Tom Petty's throwback makes the idea of falling from great heights sound romantic, but in dreamland, that gut-wrenching drop can mean you're feeling unsupported.

Consider any lulls in relationships you have with loved ones, or even any anxieties you're feeling in the workplace. Michael Lennox, a psychologist, dream interpretation expert, and author of Llewellyn's Little Book of Dreams, told Business Insider that if your dreams surround a continuous fall from high above, it's worth it to "look to the places in your work life where you feel like you're trying to exert some control that's unattainable."

5Your Death, Or A Loved One's Death

Like death, change and endings are inevitable in life, and if you're not ready for them mentally, it can be hard to cope.

Dreams about death — whether it's the death of a loved one or your own passing — symbolize the end of something, and the beginning of another. This could refer to a wide variety of things, from a breakup, or even to changing jobs.

When you dream about losing a loved one, it could mean that you feel concerned for their health. Dreaming of a child dying can symbolize the end of youth or overcoming immature behaviors.

6Missing Public Transportation

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Another common stress dream that everyone can relate to is the one where you miss your flight, train, or bus. Of course, this has less to do with actually missing your public transportation (unless you're a commuter, then that might be exactly the point your subconscious is trying to make), and more to do with deadlines.

According to Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, author of Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, your subconscious is doing its best to prove a point: Time is limited.

She told Dr. Oz,

This dream is letting you know you’d best be on your toes and learn how to manage your time and do what is necessary so you can meet that deadline or grab that opportunity when it comes your way, because it will be here before you know it.

If you haven't noticed, stress dreams are rarely literal. Lata K. McGinn, PhD tells Elite Daily that the content of common stress dreams rarely have anything to do with what you're actually stressed about (i.e. going to work nude, or falling from the roof of a tall building).

Basically, take them as common courtesy message from your subconscious to tell you that you're stressed, and should probably do something about it. If these visions start to affect your waking life, definitely don't be ashamed to reach out to a professional to better interpret them and shed some light on how you can properly de-stress.

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