Life + Health

Stress dreaming.

1616 -

Do you have a recurring stress dream? I do. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I dream about animals—pets, specifically. Too many pets. In my recurring dream, there is a menagerie of animals from ferrets to lizards to rats to fish (cages are the common denominator—dogs and cats are never involved) that I am supposed to be caring for. Somehow, in my dream, I’ve forgotten that these pets exist, and I suddenly remember them only to discover that they are malnourished, living in filth, suffering, and often reproducing, compounding the horror. My dream-state self attempts to clean the cages thoroughly, feed and care for the animals until they are healthy, separate the males from the females, and relocate all of the enclosures so they are more visible—because this cannot happen again.

But it does, of course. The dream always returns. Work piles up, emails go unanswered, responsibilities fall by the wayside, I go to bed anxious…and there I am again, bottle-feeding a guinea pig in a desperate attempt to save its life.

And this is what life feels like lately. Thankfully there aren’t any animal lives hanging in the balance, but it’s that feeling…that feeling like you’ll never catch up, no matter how hard you try, because there will always be something critical you’ve forgotten waiting to tap you on the shoulder the moment you start to relax.

And it’ll all be your fault if it doesn’t get done. And you knew you had to do it. You just didn’t do it, because you were doing something else.

Days run together. Last week (or was it yesterday?) I realized I had absolutely no idea whether a conversation I’d had occurred the day before or a whole month ago. I tried to sift through memories of weekends, but time has started to exist in a spherical blob rather than in a tidy line. Every single day the News-with-a-capital-N is absolutely batshit and horrible, which seems to add to this balloon of existence, but turning off the News-with-a-capital-N somehow compounds the feeling.


Here I am, a year later. I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING, still. And I think that’s OK?


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  • Reply Karen July 2, 2018 at 3:07 pm


  • Reply Pat July 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    It’s good to hear from you. I’m sorry this is hard. That dream sounds horrible. The news is horrible. My stress dreams involve me trying to share REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION and no one listens. love and peace to you, P

    • Anna @ D16 July 2, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Pat, I used to have that dream all the time in college. It was usually some kind of imminent doom (like a piano was about to fall off of a building). Ugh.

  • Reply Mel July 2, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    OMG Hello. We miss you and we have no clue what we’re doing either! So let’s do it together. Got so excited for a post had to comment to see if it was real!

  • Reply Trish July 2, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I feel you. My blog needs CPR even more than I do. Welcome back. Maybe I’ll write a little something myself in your honor.

  • Reply Josephine July 2, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Helloooo! Yes, stuff is pretty bonkers at the mo’. My stress dream involves being late. I also had a dream I turned up to a uni lecture only to discover there was an exam on and I’d missed the entire semester…
    Anyhow – welcome back! May the force be with you!

    • Martha July 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      I have that dream all the time….

    • Martha July 3, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      The uni one

  • Reply Ashley - The Gold Hive July 2, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I feel ya! Oh, how I feel ya.

  • Reply Biggi July 2, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Oh hey! ❤️ We’re still here, no worries. I totally empathize on all of the above. Mastercrastinator right here! Crazy hair upon getting up bc stress dreams! I don’t remember mine though.

  • Reply Danielle July 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Hi! Long time lurker, probably first time commenter, just so glad you’ve returned!

  • Reply Gaby July 2, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Hello! Whenever you write or post something, we’ll be here.
    And about that dreams. Just let everything and everyone go, do things in your own time. Nothing will fall apart. You are a responsible and hard working professional, very talented. We all who work in creative areas usually torture ourselves on a regular basis. I spent two decades of my professional career doing it. Enough. I don’t want to suffer like that anymore. Enough.

  • Reply Emma July 2, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    I’m here for design posts and whatever else you feel like writing! I’m a designer myself and I’ve had too many days lately where it just feels like my job does not matter AT all in this political climate.

  • Reply Adrian July 2, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    I’ll be 40 this year and I’m still waiting to hear the lecture about balance from friends or family. Why is this subject so foreign and mysterious? Did our ancestors have this down? I’m trying to think of somethink helpful.. -For me, a daily task list is what life is coming down to.

  • Reply Karene July 2, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Hello beautiful Anna. I relate to your story. In my late 30s I felt like I was walking on a treadmill. Same same same… And I kept thinking where am I going… Slowly, I changed my perspective on life without noticing. Now, at 43, I think I finally know what I am doing and I am happy about it. I wish you the best x

  • Reply Elizabeth July 2, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    So good to hear from you, as always! You are a great writer and thinker. Come back soon!

  • Reply Lau July 2, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    gosh, I’m right there with you, friend. ❤️

  • Reply Maureen July 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    I want to meet the person who knows what they are doing in this life!!! So good to hear from you – I miss your posts and think you when I drive past Door Sixteen.

  • Reply RebeccaNYC July 2, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Stress dream? I’m pushed out on stage in an opera role I’ve never studied, in a totally inappropriate voice part, in an outlandish costume that does not fit and is totally wrong for the opera -OR- I am sitting for a final exam in a class I have never attended. BTW, I am 60 years old, I’m ready to retire from my opera singing job and school is long gone… the dreams still pop up.

    And welcome back. You’ve been missed.

  • Reply Susan July 2, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Gah! Your stress dream sounds brutal.
    Mine always feature a distant, massive tidal wave and I’m trying to bunker everyone and everything in safely before it hits. I hope your stress lightens up fast—these dreams are as exhausting as the bloody news these days. I hear ya. Hello.

  • Reply Catherine July 2, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Oh my goodness! I was just thinking that I hadn’t read door 16 in a bit (how has it been a year!?) and boop, there you are.

    I’m going to go think about cake now.

  • Reply Zoe July 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    We ♥️ you, Anna!

  • Reply Jen July 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I have a version of this same dream, except it’s always a human baby that I’ve forgotten about that is malnourished/dying/dead. It’s horrifying. Once in one of those dreams, the baby came back to life and followed me around telling me all the ways I was f’ing up as a mother. (I am not a mother IRL.)

  • Reply Stephanie July 2, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Oh the stress dreams! Mine usually have me trying to get to a place, but I’m running and taking the longest possible route to somewhere familiar and just can’t seem to get there. I’m always so frustrated, taking buses in the wrong direction and running the wrong way down back streets. Welcome back! Let’s all be stressed together!

  • Reply Louise July 2, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Glad to hear from you again!

  • Reply Holly J July 2, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Reading your post I remember why I started following your blog. I love your writing and do I ever relate to this post. Anxiety and anxiety dreams are real! Whenever I’m faced with an abundance of both, I widdle my to do list down and only deal with what’s absolutley necessary. Usually means I don’t see people socially for awhile.

  • Reply maria July 2, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    hello! so good to see you. i get it. i SO get it. you are not alone. so when you are ready (or not) we are here.

    big love to you.

  • Reply doorot July 2, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Missed you internet friend <3

  • Reply Caroline July 2, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    My stress dreams are about my a’levels. (University entry exams. That I took 24 years ago.) Hope the busy-ness is a good busy-ness. I can relate!

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      I have school-related dreams like that, too, which seems REALLY pointless and stupid!! Whenever I wake up from one of them I’m very glad that I never went to grad school. Hahah.

  • Reply Maree July 3, 2018 at 12:07 am

    Anna, YES – I have a very similar dream when I am feeling overwhelmed. My parents gave me a budgie when I was about 10 years old (this was in the 70s… I have long since hated the idea of caged birds and have been a semi-vegan vegetarian for 30 years now). I loved that bird and it spent more time out of the cage than in – a true member of the family. Well, my recurring stress dream is that I realise I haven’t changed Peter’s water, or topped up his seed, or cleaned his cage, or played with him in AGES – and I’m horrified and upset and wonder how on earth I could have let this happen. It’s so distressing!
    I am sorry to hear you are feeling out of control but can you take comfort in the fact that all these people miss your blogging and you’ve somehow reached out to them across the world and made a connection. That is a true talent, and this would not have happened unless you were special and talented.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll find your groove again, girl.

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      Oh, that’s so sad! I’m always relieved when I wake up that none of the animals in my dreams are ones that ever existed in my life.

  • Reply Janet July 3, 2018 at 2:25 am

    Hey, this is great! You’re back.
    The capital-N-News is pretty yuck, yes. But hey, your post made my night 🙂

  • Reply Taste of France July 3, 2018 at 3:20 am

    I have missed your posts and am glad to read something from you. It’s disturbing but very familiar. Back in the day, I had a data-entry job, typing in address changes at a bank. It was a good job for a college student. I also proofread at a law firm, tutored math and taught aerobics. In fact, I went to university full-time and worked 40 hours a week (it was insane, but I graduated in three years, with no debt). I had dreams of falling through a dark space, like an elevator shaft, and all around me were psychedelic numbers–zip codes. I had memorized zip codes for far too many places, thanks to the data-entry job. The dreams made me realize I was overdoing it, and I quit that job.
    In your description, I hear a combination of sympathy/empathy and revulsion for the animals. I hope you can sort through the stress and find what works for you. Stay strong.

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      There is most definitely no revulsion for the animals in my dreams—only disappointment in myself for not caring for them.

  • Reply Merav July 3, 2018 at 3:55 am

    I have never left a comment although I have read your blog for years, but I think my own experience with anxiety might offer you an additional way to look at what you are experiencing in your dreams and life. Perhaps it has to do with age (I am 46), but for me – a long time sufferer of anxiety – it took a class on Rilke’s poetry to see more clearly than ever before that my/our need to classify everything into known and achievable categories nulls true desire and creativity. Through his poems I saw how desire, which is always free, depends deeply on the unknown and on that which has not, and perhaps cannot be achieved. I have known this in many ways for a long time, but suddenly I felt that true desire is much more important than anything else for and my anxiety stopped. Its been months now and I hope it never returns.
    If you look at what you yourself have failed to achieve not as a sign of some lack to be amended, but as a prerequisite for true desire and creativity perhaps your dream may begin to feel differently. Surely death, and our inability to prevent it however hard we try is inherent to our desire to live and create.

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      I’m only a couple of years younger than you, so I don’t think it’s age…but I do think it’s the result of brain chemistry, at least in my case.

  • Reply Katrina July 3, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Stress dreams are the worst! My teeth always fall out in mine. Sometimes they fall out all at once, sometimes one by one, sometimes I’m just chewing then….crunch. My husband (and another friend of his) both have the same dream PTSD stress dream.

    Welcome back, any time you feel like (or have time to) post, we’ll be here! I hope you get to take a break this week and do something you just for you!

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      THE TOOTH DREAM!!! I used to have that one all the time, too. I don’t know why it stopped, but thankfully it’s been a few years. (Of course now that I’ve mentioned it…)

  • Reply Annie July 3, 2018 at 6:38 am


  • Reply Southern gal July 3, 2018 at 6:43 am

    Dashing to work so glad to see your post. Have missed you. Btw my sister had lived i pun ABQ for decades. May be visiting soon. Such a different world than the east coast. Hang in there.

    • Southern gal July 3, 2018 at 6:44 am

      *has lived in ABQ

  • Reply Cheryl July 3, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Y E S.
    Mine is so, SO similar! I often have the reoccurring dream that I’ve forgotten about my childhood fish tank. It’s full of filth and death but also fish that are still struggling to survive and I am so overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start or how to help them.
    I also have dreams where I am running on foot from a tornado.
    Stress is a bitch.

  • Reply Abbie July 3, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Anna, I thought of you yesterday in the shower when I was using my Clarisonic! I was like, “I don’t know where she is or how she’s doing, but I’m gonna send her some positive vibes.” Glad you stopped in to chat–holding you in the light during this crazy, anxious, stressful time.

    • Anna @ D16 July 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      OK, honest to goodness, I was JUST thinking about the fact that I never use my Clarisonic anymore, and YESTERDAY I ordered a new brush for it.

  • Reply Junedotbe July 3, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Hello Anna. It’s lovely to read you. Always!

  • Reply beks July 3, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Nice to see you again, I hope things are adequate, but I wish the best for you.

  • Reply Alexiss July 3, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I have a recurring stress dream that I’m back in college it’s finals week and somehow I wasn’t aware I was enrolled in certain classes and I’m destined to fail. There’s a looming sense of dread, guilt, and shame. I hate it and I have this dream all too often. Burnout is real but for a lot of my colleagues it’s the new normal…

    I have no idea what I’m doing either, but the older I get I realize no one REALLY does.

  • Reply Kim B. July 3, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Hello Anna. I really hate that you are enduring such stress. I hope it gets better. I don’t know how much is work-related or family-related or friend-related or thanks to our stupid arrogant cruel imbecilic president, or to anything else, but I hope that it ALL gets better, and soon.

  • Reply Lumina Lux July 3, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Good to see you blogging again! In my stress dream, I’m so tired or so sleepy that I’m not able to move. I’m conscious, I’m aware of what is happening around me and what I’m supposed to do in certain situations, but I’m paralyzed. The other day I should’ve stopped a moving car while I was sitting alone on the passenger seat, but I couldn’t move. Thankfully, I woke up and it was morning and I didn’t have time to sleep back and I had go to work…
    I just recently realized that catching up with things and reaching a point when everything is done is an illusion, so I should learn to care less and be less perfectionist. It’s a very tough job… (another thing to do, haha) Life sucks sometimes. Hugs from Europe

  • Reply Shawn July 4, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Jeez, I thought I was the only one who had the recurring dead and dying animals dream! I’ve had it for 40 yrs now. 🙁

  • Reply Bridget July 5, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Mine is about having to go back and finish my senior year of high school after a transcript error at age 32. It’s awful, and I feel your pain!

  • Reply lin July 5, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    so glad you are back, missed you a lot

  • Reply Anna July 6, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Oh hey, there you are. I’m here too.
    No idea what I am doing.
    I would say maybe it’s an Anna-thing, but I know it’s not! The comments prove it.

  • Reply Amy July 10, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Hello, missed you.
    When I consider all the inspiration you have given me over the years…books I read simply because you had designed the cover. When watching the new Antman movie, thought of you when Morrissey was alluded to. Whatever brought you back, I am so glad. The News is not good, but our community is worth the fight. We will get through all of this together. o o o A

  • Reply Andrea July 21, 2018 at 3:08 am

    It’s definitely the daily barrage of insults coming from that president that makes most of us feel nauseous and overwhelmed. I realized the hard way that life stops when life-changing events happen…in my case it was my mom’s death last year, followed by the death of two beloved pets. I found out a family secret right after mom passed away – I have a half sister my age. My nightmare is that I dream that I ask mom about her and wake up realizing I cannot ask her anything anymore. Both parents are now gone and it made me feel reeling. My awful brothers started an inheritance fight that just takes every energy. I never experienced so much stress and conflicted feelings and grief – I looked at my to-do-lists and realized they don’t matter at all. I cleaned up my desk, put half-finished projects aside or tossed them. I just let myself be tired and unproductive for a range of weeks, without feeling guilty, even if it meant financial stress on top of everything else. I know that I will be stronger for it, and that horrible people like my siblings and that president will eventually self-destruct in their suffocating little bubble of hate, spite and revenge. Such man-babies.
    I only look at three blogs, and I did miss your posts – but totally understandable that everything gets too much at one point.

  • Reply Kellie July 25, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Welcome back! I missed your posts.

    I can relate to your struggles. Good luck with your dreams, and with dealing with the news. Persist. Take care of yourself.

  • Reply Michelle July 28, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Hi Anna, count me amongst those who have missed you and your energy and enthusiasm about the beauty and utility of one’s surroundings. Count me amongst those ground down with the reality-tv-show of government, which seem to make our domestic surroundings seem a frivolous afterthought. Or a fortifying distraction (i.e. THIS at least, I can get my hands on).
    But perhaps our domestic lives are one of the very most important things just now.

  • Reply Analu Valois August 1, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Hello, Ana!! You’re a cool kid and you’re allowed to do anything you feel like! It’s good to hear from you though. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah August 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    It’s nice to see you back. I’m about to furnish a new house from scratch and am browsing your ikea posts.

  • Reply Barbara August 10, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Nothing but love for you, Anna, from across the interwebs. My issues are not exactly your issues but I soooooo understand the sentiments.

  • Reply Cortney August 15, 2018 at 12:01 am

    OMG the stress dreams! My worst one is that me teeth are falling out. Also have the forgot to put on pants or sitting down to take a test in a course I forgot to attend all semester (I’m nearly 20 years past being in college). Oh yes, and the extra special trying to pack to go home from vacation and no matter how hard I try there is more to put in the suitcase. I’m never done!

  • Reply laurie pea September 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    hi Anna!

    I feel terrible (really not really) that I am just checking in because life=hectic=stress=all the things political. I like to cruise by every now and then to see what you have to say; that used to be very week or so, but then it was every month and now? Geez. You posted in July and I didn’t check for almost two months! because…life=hectic.

    I’m happy to hear that you are doing your thing and am so sorry to hear about the stress dreams. I have CPTSD so my stress dreams are usually when I am awake; EMDR helped with the nights and I try to use tapping and good food as medicine for all else.

    happy to see you—and you are living in one of my favorite places. stay well!

  • Reply Simone April 30, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Hi Anna, glad you are back. It is OK I’m sure everyone feels this way at some point. Whenever I feel this way I do The Work by Byron Katie. Works like magic for me. I just saw that you have been binge posting on your blog…
    Anyhow, kind regards from me.

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