Overwhelming freeze: What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Experiencing ourselves and also the world clearly needs clarity of mind, which may be challenging to get when there is so much in the way.

Sluggishness, a low-energy state of mind or body, or both, is what sloth and torpor are. Sloth, unlike anxiety, anger, desire, and fear, does not produce energy. Even if it is not a powerful as the more exciting ones, it might look like a practically immobilizing weight on the body and psyche.

 

When we close the door, the gravitational attraction of the sofa might be strong. We had scarcely laid down our belongings before the sofa grabbed us. As our bodies sink into their comfortable cushions, we relive the hours we spent there attempting to tune out the world. We get lost in the embrace of this cradle and disconnect from our senses.

Considering the speed of modern life, this is a reasonable reaction. The body’s need for rest and relaxation should not be overlooked. This is a natural aspect of the human condition, and everyone experiences it at times.

You’d think that when your to-do list was at its length, you’d go into high gear and start checking things off like a productivity rockstar. When your to-do list becomes this large, you panic, your motivation level is reduced, and your mind fogs. You end up worrying more than you do.

 

The challenge is locating the energy to break free from this impediment since it distorts our views when it becomes concentrated in us. They are impediments because we become engrossed with them. We want to be present in our lives, to choose how we engage, and to see and feel as much as possible. If we don’t address our indifference or boredom, it might consume us.

Our inability to encounter overwhelming emotions, particularly painful ones, might sometimes be the source of our laziness and torpor. Many of us have the tendency of switching off, numbing out, and thinking, “Time for a nap!” when something uncomfortable is about to arise.

It’s not a good idea to just keep going. The sloth and torpor may be acting as a type of regulator valve, preventing too much from happening at once. After many years of meditation practice, I understand that we must occasionally proceed slowly in order to titrate our sense of pain. We can’t just leap in because we’ll be overwhelmed.

The first step in gaining such discernment is distinguishing between the sloth and the body’s desire for rest. We all require rest (and most of us require more of these), but with sloth and torpor, the quantity of rest sought is out of proportion with the body’s needs.

 

The freeze reaction is complex and subtle; a single little stimulus can cause full immobility. So, how can we work with the freeze reaction more effectively in a session?

What Are the Symptoms
of a Freeze Response?

Here are a few freeze indicators to keep an eye out for throughout a session:

    • Hyper-Alertness
    • Accelerated heart rate
    • Tension in the muscles and body (tonic immobility)
    • Energy appears to be accumulating but cannot be released.
    • Some verbal clues, but just a few, such as “I’m stuck,” “I can’t move,” or “I’m paralyzed.” Or, alternatively, no communication at all.
    • The distinction between freeze and collapse
      Rapid and shallow breathing
    • These indications may appear easy now, but they may not be in practice. Because the freeze reaction might resemble another sort of shock response: collapse, often known as shutdown.

 

What Does Place within the Body?

The amygdala, the region of your brain responsible for processing emotions such as fear or anger, is the first physiological structure to engage when you are confronted with a possible threat.

When you are afraid, the amygdala signals the hypothalamus, which stimulates the autonomic nervous system (comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system).

Your adrenal glands will begin to release cortisol and adrenaline as soon as the autonomic nervous system gets instructions from the brain.

These hormones will cause a wide range of physiological changes, from enhanced peripheral vision, perspiration, and muscular tension to faster heart rate and quick breathing.

The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight-or-flight reaction, whereas the parasympathetic nervous system controls freezing.

One of the primary distinctions between fight or flight and freezing is that your heart rate remains relatively consistent during freezing, as if you were calm and comfortable.

It’s one of the reasons why some experts feel freezing gives people and animals more time to absorb the issue and decide on the best course of action.

 

What occurs in the Mind?

The fight-flight-freeze reaction is the result of perceived terror, according to psychology.

Objectively speaking, the situation may or may not be dangerous. What is most important is how you see it.

Speaking in front of an audience might elicit the same emotions as being imprisoned inside a cage with a bear for some of us.

In other words, everyone of us acquires conditioned anxieties in the sense that we learn to see particular circumstances as dangerous. A automobile collision, for example, might teach you to consider driving as risky.

To summarize, if you are confronted with a circumstance that you categorize as “dangerous,” your mind (and body) will react as though you are in genuine danger.

 

The Fight-Flight-Freeze Response: An Overview

One of the primary processes that have secured our survival as a species is the fight-flight-freeze response.

When danger lurked in the woods, our forefathers relied on this natural response to deal with whatever threatened their lives.

Our forefathers could determine the proper reaction based on a fast, almost unconscious assessment of the prospective threat.

This coping mechanism was so important that it was encoded in our DNA and transmitted down through generations.

Humans are not the only creature that relies on this survival mechanism. The fight-flight-freeze reaction appears to be shared by all animals.

The hazards we’ve faced have evolved considerably during our existence. Nowadays, there are both actual and imagined hazards (for example, an incoming automobile) (e.g., someone who disagrees with us).

Although our world’s astonishing complexity, the core systems that control your fight-flight-freeze response are essentially unchanged from millennia ago.

If you want to fight the freeze response, you must first grasp its biochemistry.

When you are confronted with a stressful or possibly harmful scenario, you experience a wide range of physiological and psychological changes.

Remember that there are no right or wrong ways to respond to potentially dangerous circumstances.

Sometimes you ‘fight,’ and other times you flee.
Sometimes you’ll ‘freeze,’ and other times you’ll faint.

It’s difficult to predict how someone will respond to danger, whether it’s genuine or perceived.

 

4 Ways to Overcoming
the Freeze Response

Because the fight-flight-freeze reaction is primarily instinctive and firmly ingrained in our DNA, exerting total control over how you respond to dangers (actual or perceived) can be difficult.

In other words, you can’t predict how you’ll respond to an unexpected (and perhaps negative) shift in your surroundings.

The better you control your stress and anxiety, though, the less likely you are to ‘freeze’ in the face of imminent danger.

 

Things like a difficult choice that you couldn’t put off, a passionate confrontation with someone, an abrupt and unexpected shift, or even a life-or-death situation in which you needed to respond quickly.

It’s difficult to anticipate how someone might respond in such a situation. Sometimes you confront it directly, and other times you attempt to escape it. There are also instances when you just freeze.

You don’t feel compelled to act or compelled to run; you’re just… trapped.

To fight the freeze response, you first should recognize what causes it and how the fight-flight-freeze reaction works.

You might be startled to learn that “freezing” occurs more frequently than you believe.

This is how you can do it.

 

1. Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation and breathing methods are two of the most accessible strategies for controlling anxiety and overcoming the freeze reaction.

For starters, simply turning your focus to your breath gets you out of your thoughts and away from all the uncertainty and second-guessing that has you ‘frozen.’

Breathing methods are also a fantastic approach to restoring control of your body.

You may ‘unfreeze yourself’ and reclaim control of the situation by gradually recovering control of your body.

Deep breathing is a quick and simple exercise to perform.

This is how you do it:

    • Deeply inhale through your nose, allowing your abdomen and chest to fully expand.
    • Slowly exhale through your mouth.
    • Repeat.

However, don’t simply undertake these exercises when you’re feeling stuck.

Practice on a regular basis so that your mind is already prepared to overcome the freeze response when it occurs.

 

2. Grounding

Another useful method for when worry is so acute that it paralyzes you is grounding.

Grounding techniques, like breathing exercises, allow you to escape the overwhelming stream of ideas running through your brain during a stressful scenario.

Grounding is really about bonding with your environment.

When your mind is overburdened by anxiety and stress, your focus switches inward, and you lose sight of what is going on around you.

You may ground yourself in the present moment by using your senses, moving your concentration to a circumstance that requires a rapid response or choice.

 

3. Establishing a Safe Zone

The fact that a situation ‘feels’ urgent or dangerous doesn’t always need immediate action.

Be aware that your fight-flight-freeze reaction may be hyperactive as a result of the tension and worry you’ve been carrying for quite some time.

Anxiety freeze response | signs of anxiety freeze response | dissociation from anxiety freeze response
If at all feasible, seek out a safe haven where you may gather your thoughts and slowly determine what to do next.

Perhaps outside, somewhere calm and less congested.

Perhaps you prefer an empty place where you can feel protected from the circumstance or person that is making you feel terrified and’stuck.’

 

4. Social and Professional Assistance

Being in the presence of others – generally, individuals we trust – might be soothing enough for some of us to overcome ‘frozen’ and plan our next action.

Even an encouraging and comforting note from a loved one might give you the confidence to overcome mental blockages and manage challenging situations.

Even if messaging a buddy or seeking the company of someone you feel comfortable with is calming enough to help you ‘unstuck,’ I wouldn’t advocate doing so on a regular and indefinite basis.

In those other terms, going to people every time you “freeze” in the midst of an important and difficult scenario will simply exacerbate your underlying issue.

Furthermore, people may not feel comfortable acting as your “safety net.”

If ‘freezing’ is a recurring problem, see a mental health expert who could also assist you get to the bottom of that as well.