Barbara's blog: Sandman Struggles

clock Released On 18 June 2024

Barbara's blog: Sandman Struggles

I was recently successful in securing a secondment with a small but impactful organisation, to build and lead its net zero programme of work. I have now started my new role, and I am in the “honeymoon phase”, enjoying having time to read and think (such a luxury!), forward plan and having a manageable diary (it won’t last!) rather than hopping from meeting to meeting like a mad hare in March. All is going swimmingly…

… or is it?

It is not unusual for me to dream about work. Sometimes, when I have a problem to solve, the unbound freedom brought on by sleep helps me to subconsciously work through a solution. And, at the start of a new job, it is the combination of information overload and mild anxiety that causes work to infiltrate my dreams. Generally, everything goes back to normal after a few days. This time, however, the dreams have been persistent, vivid and unsettling.

I dreamt of outcomes, outputs and agenda items I had drafted, of conversations I had had earlier that day, and of meetings I had been in. Everything I saw, read, touched was in eerily minute details, and my surroundings were picture perfect, however, I was always the only one there, which gave the dreams a feeling of disconcerting doom. When I woke, I didn’t feel scared, just simply confused that I was home and not at the office.

Then the dreams took a different turn. I found myself on a submarine – or it could have been a train – running from a faceless couple with obvious hostile intentions. I was throwing glass balls at them to deter their chase, but instead of breaking, the baubles were bouncing off the walls. I had versions of this dream over a few nights. The location changed, but the scene remained the same, playing out in an endless loop.

I thought the dreams might stop if I tried to extricate some meaning, but the science of sleep and dreaming is complex, so I used the least scientific method and asked ChatGPT. This is what it returned: “Dreams of being chased and attacked symbolise an internal conflict, with the pursuer a metaphor for a nagging thought or unresolved issue. The dream may also occur during times of significant life changes”.

I recognised that the new role would have been a trigger, but I wasn’t sure it was solely responsible for the inner tumult that was causing the dreams. After some thinking, the answer turned out to be the change of routine.

I have always relied on a long morning walk with my dog to take the time and space to think. Being in nature helps me relax and Boomer keeps me in the moment. These happy walks were recently cut short due to Boomer having been diagnosed with early arthritis so I fathomed that must have had an effect on my ability to decompress and process my thoughts and feelings, which in turn could have caused the dreams. If felt like a bit of a ‘back of a beer mat’ diagnosis, but was plausible and worth a shot. I have started running, as the solitude and rhythmic cadence is similarly meditative, and although it is too early to tell whether it is having a positive impact, my experience was a useful reminder that allowing time to free-think brings zen. And it might even keep the Sandman at bay.


Barbara works as an environmental strategist for the aviation regulator and lives a stone’s throw from the South Downs, with her 18-year-old creative daughter, 17-year-old ingenious son and supportive husband.


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