If our dreams are a microcosm of our waking world, is it any wonder we dream of living and deceased loved ones during the holidays? Dreams of people, parties and gatherings – whether soothing or stressful – can have many meanings and messages filled with hope and love.

An email in my inbox read: Why am I having recurrent vivid dreams of my car filled with noisy deceased family members stalling on the way to a holiday party? I wake up in tears.

This time of year, stress levels tend to go through the roof as we shop, cook, wrap, decorate and party-plan ourselves into a tizzy. Despite the fun holiday hyper-life, our nightly dreams often reenact daily stress.

Here are six helpful tips for avoiding stress-inducing holiday dreams and nightmares: 

Travel sleep patterns. Stress increases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the precursor to dreams, which can lead to weird, vivid dreams. Time zones and environmental factors that accompany travel can further affect sleep and dreams. Meditate before sleep to reduce stress and re-center your being. 

The winter blues. Working before sun rise and leaving after dark can throw off our biological clock’s circadian rhythms – the body’s responses to natural light. Therapeutic light boxes or dawn simulators mimic the sun’s gradual rise to keep winter biorhythms in sync.

Shop ‘til you drop. When shopping stresses you out, take a break. Light a candle or create a therapeutic holiday aroma to evoke pleasant memories. I heat five drops of pine oil and two drops of cinnamon oil in four ounces of water for dreamy holiday cheer.

Retail madness. Colors, lights, shiny objects and background music distract our shopping decisions and can further stimulate our stress hormones. Lift the fog of confusion with a shopping list or product printout with prices. Enjoy the madness without the stress.  

Loss in the family. Plan ahead. Create a list of things or people to help you cope with sadness during parties or dinners so you do not feel lost when a sensitive topic arises. 

Family feuds. Set boundaries. Gatherings become stressful when our hopes of pleasing everyone fail. Be honest about limitations such as not wanting to host all of the extended family. Another stress-reducer is to take a break. Step outside and take some deep breaths when dreamy gatherings become a nightmare.

So, is it any wonder our seasonal lifestyle is reflected in dreams that can shift into confusing nightmares? When our dream car, filled with deceased and live family members on their way to a party, stalls, what is our dreaming-self telling us about our waking world? Look for the dream’s play on words. The questions “Who is in your car?” and “What is in your party?” may be a duality or double entendre. In dreams, a car is our mobile body traveling through life. The dream message of a stalled car may be, “I’m bogged down with emotions.” Use the list above to kick stress out of your car.  

And remember, we are never alone. During our darkest hour of the holiday season, we have a car full of love because, while people may pass, love never dies.

Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos of Rancho Mirage is a survivor, author, dream expert, speaker and TV/radio host/producer and has been featured on Dr. Oz and The Doctors. Her new award-winning book Dreams That Can Save Your Life is available now. For more information, visit www.KathleenOkeefeKanavos.com.

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