“Hey, are you there? Are you listening to me?”
Most often than not, I nodded in affirmation, but my mind had already wandered off into a distant, nice memory from the past.
Usually, I get away with it, but when the person is someone who knows me well enough to realize that I haven’t been listening in the slightest, I have to ask them to repeat themselves.
This doesn’t happen very often; this is only the case when the conversation isn’t interesting or is distressing but not addressed directly to me.
And then, after years of reflection—and much time on my hands during the lockdown—I realized that I’m a chronic daydreamer.
(It is different from having maladaptive daydreaming.)
My daydreaming habits are not limited to snapping myself out of dull conversations or stressful situations (which I worked on reducing as of late because, well, escaping rather than facing isn’t a trait I wish to develop).
I decided to use what I shall call a talent to my own advantage by employing it to reduce my anxiety.
Dealing with my anxiety isn’t something new, and I’ve spent the last nine years of my life (ever since I turned 18) trying to find ways to reduce it since it was clear it wasn’t going away.
And yet, every solution seemed temporary.
But to my delight, whenever I felt an anxiety attack taking control of my being, I closed my eyes and tried—with great effort and practice—to focus on a distant memory or a nice story/scenario that I made up.
Slowly, my heartbeats would abate, my breath would level up, and my hands would stop shaking.
I’m not a guru, an expert on meditation, or a therapist, but this practice helped me in more ways than one.
It gave me the strength to redirect my fearful thoughts and focus on something pleasant.
As such, I found myself daydreaming whenever I had time on my hands. I would take five to 10 minutes in the least each day to think about something nice and that would make me smile.
I daydreamed about what would make me happy then woke up and worked on making it come true.
I made sure that I wasn’t living in an illusion and that I didn’t escape the world completely that I lost sense of reality. I always linked what I daydreamed about with my current situation and looked for ways to make things better instead of focusing on my irrational fears.
Here are three ways that daydreaming has been helping me deal with my anxiety:
- It helped me tap into my creativity.
The cliché “I write/read to escape reality” applies heavily here. I have so many interests that might not be applicable in reality, like attending a ball in 19th century London (don’t judge). And then, I decided to daydream about that.
After listening to classical music and imagining a beautiful scene in the hall of a great Victorian mansion, I would grab my laptop and come up with a story/poem set in that century.
- It helped me reach my goals.
I remember, one day, sitting in my bed and feeling anxious in more ways than one that I’m not doing what I want in life. I want to be a writer; I want to be an editor; I want to connect with people from different parts of the world instead of being cooped up in a shell.
Then, I started daydreaming of having this life. The elation that I felt pushed me to strive for more. It made me ask myself, “Why won’t you stop dreaming about it and actually do it?”
And here I am. I’m an editor at Elephant Journal; I find time to write every day; and I became friends with editors, writers, and readers from all over the globe.
- It stirred me away from contemplating dark thoughts and irrational fears.
I’m the kind of person who finds peace in staying busy.
I used to have a full-time job at the university to pay my tuition fees, then I would go to class, then tutor students when classes are over, then go home at night to work on my projects.
This gave me little time to think, but it eventually led to burnout.
So, I forced myself to make time for physical rest. However, my mind had different plans. Whenever I laid my head on my pillow, it threw a damn party, and the invitees were none other than anxiety, depression, and unexplainable worry.
That’s when I learned to close my eyes, daydream about anything that makes me smile (it usually included memories of days with my boyfriend), then mindfully return to my fears and acknowledge them now that their impact has reduced to something insignificant.
Eventually, it’s rather boring to live a life that’s so immersed in reality and void of dreams.
“Ever drifting down the stream
Lingering in the golden gleam
Life, what is it but a dream?” ~ Lewis Carroll