Anxiety and stress

My dreams are getting weird again.

DJ Cooper
DJ Cooper
Apr 10 · 6 min read
Photo by FOX from Pexels

I always know when I need a break from my ‘living at the office’ life and that’s when my small business starts encroaching on my dreams at night. People love working from home but it’s something I struggle with because, for the best part of two decades, I still haven’t learnt how to work from home and switch off at the end of the day. I have tried not going into my home office which is also our front room unless I’m working. I have tried sitting in there listening to our son playing his latest composition on the keyboard with all the orchestrations he’s put together. (He is amazing. And with the technology we have now, he’s way ahead of where I was when I was writing music on manuscript paperback in the day.) While I could allow access to the piano before the room became so cramped with business stuff and before the piano became too loud for the neighbours, on occasion I went back to playing the piano. I can’t do that now in case I annoy anyone with the noise. The piano is still in its corner with the pedestal table I use for work situated in front and over it. I can’t move the table far due to a shoulder impingement. So, the piano’s out. I have tried reclaiming the room as a writing room while the weather has been too wet and too cold to write outside.

So far, I have not found a way of working and relaxing at home. It’s been eighteen years and I still haven’t found that balance. The only time I switch off is when we have weekends away at our caravan with its patched roof and peeling internal furnishings which I inherited from my mother. Nobody can expect me to work down there because I left all the business stuff at home. It is my safe-haven.

There is not enough space at home or money to convert anything to a permanent business location. If I had that, I would then be able to shut the door on the business and live at home again rather than the office. Besides, if we had the money wouldn’t I fix the bathroom first and stop the water coming through the kitchen ceiling from the shower cubicle? That’s been patched now for years. Every few months my husband goes up there and tries to keep it watertight. We currently have a plastic jug sitting under the drip in the kitchen. I should feel lucky I live in a house with running water, so many in the world do not have this privilege. Although, clean water should be a basic human right.

I always know when it’s getting too much on top of the usual stress when my dreams start changing. I’ve had two weird ones recently centred around a colleague who would probably be alarmed if they found out I was stressed by their growing business. They are far enough away from me that their business shouldn’t impact mine. However, I’m tired, not fighting fit and now I’m having dreams about their business encroaching on mine into towns nearer me than them. We don’t have territories. We can go where we like. Given funds and health, I could set myself up in a rented space one day a week anywhere in the country I wanted to. That’s what a lot of them are doing and I can’t compete. So, I came to terms with the fact that my business will remain small, from home, and in my cramped front room. It is far from ideal, but it is my reality.

I’m not sure how you can change the dreams you have in your sleep. I’ve changed my aspirational dreams many times in my life to fall in line with what I’m capable of achieving. There’s no point in blindly following this nonsense that dictates you can achieve anything you dream. Some of us have ridiculous notions that will never be obtained. I prefer to be more realistic than the cliché of if you can dream it you can achieve it. Sure, if I dream I can continue walking around the block this year with my walking stick, I’m sure I will achieve it. It’s attainable. World famous author? Don’t be ridiculous. Those notions are just setting someone up to fail. But how the hell do you change what goes through your mind when you’ve effectively shut down for the night? Although you could argue, if my dreams are filled with the business, I haven’t shut down at all.

As a weight loss consultant, life was easier when I didn’t still have weight to lose. This target has to become the main focus for the sake of my mental health. I have sat in coffee shops before with clients approaching me to playfully scold me for drinking coffee with milk in it. It’s the reason why I never have cake or a pastry in coffee shops. In my local area, I feel I should set an example in case someone who knows what I do for a living sees me enjoying life. I have experienced people looking me up and down with the “Really? You probably need to practice what you preach” look on their faces, but that was before I lost three stone. I buy cakes and pastries for my family and I sit there with my coffee. I’ve even done this for lunches in case someone sees me. There are some eating establishments which don’t provide food with any health benefits, so there would be nothing on their menus I can eat without being a target for someone’s scorn. I have coffee, the family eats lunch out. You can justify eating junk once in a while when you’ve finished losing weight. If you do so before reaching your goal weight, you are just setting yourself up to be a target in the eyes of others. The world is an unforgiving place.

Of course, when I’d lost the amount of weight I’d wanted to, I’d have the perfect answer to the bright spark who thought they were being funny by approaching me and pointing and saying “should you be eating that?” just like my mother did when I lost all the weight and I could throw back, “Why yes, I’ve finished losing weight now and I’m maintaining. How’s your weight loss going?” I still have a couple of stone to lose having lost a lot already. It is something that I need to concentrate on again this year to silence the voices. Life is more manageable when I don’t have that particular failing hanging over me.

As a consequence of not having my weight lower, I am stressed by things others would shrug off and expect to work out for the better with minimal effort. Having booked our pets into their usual accommodation during the spring for last year’s summer holiday, I was stressed by not being able to do the same thing this year because they were fully booked already. I then had several hours waiting to hear if the accommodation down the motorway had room to help us out. In my head, I was working out how long I could leave it before I had to cancel our holiday this year. My husband doesn’t understand the stress this puts on me. I’ve been told that it’s a typical man thing that they sit back and expect the woman to organise life. But my mother was incapable of making a decision and my Dad did everything. I took everything on in an attempt to not be like her. It has left me in a position as the one who plans everything except the driving route on the satnav. I need everything to run smoothly or I head into a mental meltdown. Situations like this have no doubt added to my blood pressure issues which have led to a mini-stroke and a blood clot at the back of my eye because I just don’t appear to cope with changes to plans and routines. I have known for many years that I am one of the millions of people who eat unhealthy foods when they’re stressed. Yesterday was a 10-biscuit day. Today needs to be better.

I could live without the stress dreams of a colleague wiping out my business with their own. That’s just unnecessary.

DJ Cooper

Written by

DJ Cooper

Wife, mother, author of science fiction. Vaguely amusing. Owns a tortoise, a degu & a flying, fire breathing bearded dragon. I rant therefore I am. Quite mad.