‘Tis the season. How can I deal with feelings of dread?

Mental Health

There are many ways to deal with feelings of dread including acknowledging it, expressing it, and making a plan for it. If your dread is making it hard for you to get out of bed, causing you to avoid situations or miss work, or doesn’t go away even after you try different things to make it better, it is important that you see a clinician who can make sure that you don’t have any other physical health or mental health conditions.

🙀 So what is dread anyways?

Dread is more than a feeling. It is an experience. Most people define dread as a set of negative feelings, behaviors, and body symptoms that happen before or in anticipation of something. For many of us, this happens on a Sunday night before the work week or before doing something that we want to do. For others, it can be more existential and a general sense of dread can color our days when we think about upcoming holidays or even bigger threats like global warming.

🌧️ Dread can feel like a lot of things, but it is often described as:

-A bad feeling that something is going to happen

-Having a hard time doing something (like getting out of bed or getting to work)

-Feeling restless or on edge

-Taking on a negative outlook on the world (like why should I do anything if there is global warming)

-Having other physical symptoms in anticipation of something coming up

-Experiencing a lack of motivation in doing things your normally have no problem doing

🗓️ Why does it happen?

Dread can be a normal response to something that feels threatening. When dealing with it, it important not to avoid it, but to recognize it and then integrate it into your life. When dread seems to come out of nowhere or has many physical symptoms associated with it like racing heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, or vision changes, it is very important that you see a clinician to make sure that you don’t have a physical condition that could be causing this like seizure, migraine, or even heart attack or stroke. Physical symptoms can also be related to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. If you are having trouble taking care of yourself, getting out of bed, getting to work, or interacting with others, it could be related to a mental health condition. It is also important to talk to a mental health clinician about this because there are treatments that can help for depression or anxiety

🙋 But what can I do about it?

1. Acknowledge it. If you push your feeling down into the drawer of emotions, eventually, they will overflow (just like your sock drawer). Make sure that you just practice being aware of it to start.

2. Give yourself time for dread. Feel it and then move on (easier said than done!). You can schedule dread time at the time you feel it most. Take no more than ten minutes to feel all the feels.

3. Write it down. Download it out of your head and onto paper. This is a surprisingly useful strategy for unloading without dumping out your feelings onto a friend or loved one. If you can’t write it, you can draw it, dance it out, or even sing it out. Creative expression can also help us get at the feelings we can’t quite express, but most certainly do feel.

4. Make sure you are taking care of your basics. Eat well, sleep, hydrate, exercise, get outside every day, and connect socially with people. It sounds very basic (said with all the sarcasm of a younger person), but if we aren’t taking care of our basic needs, we aren’t setting ourselves up to have a non-dread filled mind.

5. Plan ahead for your dread. If you generally have dread around a specific event or trigger, make a plan for it the day before. Think of what might be most triggering and how you can reduce your stress around it. Maybe it means taking a walk, journaling, or practicing present moment awareness. Maybe it means rewarding yourself with some alone time or a nice cup of tea before or after the event. Remember that a variety of strategies can help to decrease stress in the moment and you can choose what will work best for you.

➡️ The bottom line: Dread is a normal experience and can have many expressions, but is a general negative feeling that happens before an event. You can deal with it using many strategies like recognizing it, allowing time for it, expressing it, taking care of your health, and planning for it. If you have new or unusual symptoms paired with dread, it is very important to talk to a clinician to make sure that you don’t have a physical or mental health condition that could be causing it.

🫶 We hope these tips are helpful for helping you deal with dread. If you try these things and still aren’t feeling well, please do make sure to reach out to a clinician or a trusted professional for more support!

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Please note: If you or a loved one need additional resources, Mental Health America (MHA) (https://bit.ly/3c1pRX7 ) offers a great way to search for resources. And if you are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 OR 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


Additional Links:

Mental health care basics from Those Nerdy Girls

NPR: 5 strategies to help with dread

The Dread Project

Link to original Those Nerdy Girls Facebook post