Olivia spirals

Columnist for The Daily Collegian, Olivia Woodring, illustrates the spiraling of feeding into the emotion of worrying.

The other night, I had a stress nightmare: losing my apartment key.

Aside from the nightmare being extremely vivid, what made it scary was how real it felt. There was no mythical monster or supervillain, just an absence of keys. 

Despite the fact that this nightmare revolved around a seemingly simple and human problem, it really offered an interesting perspective on an emotion I’m far too familiar with: worry. 

The entirety of the nightmare was a hustle to somehow find a way back into my apartment building. The anxiety of the situation only progressed throughout the plot: I frantically ran around the building, somehow made it inside but dropped my phone down the dark elevator shaft and approached groups of people asking them if they could let me into my apartment unit (which didn’t even make sense because why would they have a key to my place?) 

The nightmare itself was a fluster, but it wasn’t until the end when I looked down at my wrist only to see I was wearing my coil wristband, with none other than the apartment key attached to it — projecting a bright shine upward at my face, as if mocking me.

When I woke up, this made no sense, and honestly the “happy ending” of the scenario wasn’t even satisfying because I just felt frustrated with myself. Had the key been there the whole time? 

I figured there must be some meaning behind this dream. 

My dreams are how my subconscious mind communicates to me — shaking me into action and uncovering all of the feelings I like to shove aside for later but ultimately end up trashing, like leftovers. So, I immediately began to understand this dream as a reflection of how my mind often becomes enveloped in worrying — so much so that I seem to sport horse blinders. 

There are no “instructions” to cure a panic attack or immediately stop a flurry of worry, but sometimes the simple things that surround us can be the keys to calming down, yet we often overlook them in times of heightened worry.

In the instance of my nightmare, I spent the entire dream spiraling into an anxiety about where the keys could have been, what I would do without them, how I managed to lose them and why everything kept going wrong, so I didn’t even step back, take a breath and notice the keys were stapled to my wrist the whole time. 

In the nightmare, my mind also became so fogged with worry that I wasn’t logically thinking. Why would I ask a stranger to let me into my apartment unit? Their key wouldn’t work. At the moment, I was just taking any quick action I could without stepping back and calming down.

It’s so easy to feed into worry — after all it likes company — so you can get lost in its spiral. 

The further we slip down the spiral of anxiety, the harder it is to see everything on the surface. Reality becomes a small light at the end of the tunnel, shining back at us in the far distance. 

But what happens if we change our perspective on that daunting spiral?

From a side profile, the anxiety spiral appears to go down and down and down — a whirlpool. But what happens when you look at the spiral from a bird's eye view? It’s flat — a series of swooping lines you could walk straight across. 

Reality isn’t an unreachable light in the distance, afterall. Reality is right next to you most times, and you just can’t see it.

Worry likes to warp our view of what’s around us, so don’t let it filter your life. 

Take a deep breath, step back and slow down because oftentimes, the resolution to your worry is right at your fingertips. 

You have the keys.

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