Anxiety affects all of us at some point in our lives. It can be something that we have propensity towards based on history or a specific situation that lets our brain know that something isn’t right. It is usually based in fear. We fear that something bad is about to happen. This triggers the fight or flight response.
We either need to fight off what threatens us or flee and run away from it. There has been much written about fight or flight and how our brain senses danger and sends the warning signals causing these responses.
There is a third thing that may happen in response to stress that I see happen alot, but is not written about often. At least my google research didn’t find it.
If you have heard of the phrase “deer in the headlights” you probably understand what I am speaking about. It is freezing when there is a real or perceived danger or stressor present.
When we freeze, if there is a real danger, we could realize harm. If it is a perceived threat, we may not realize actual physical harm, however, we may feel emotional or cognitive harm that isn’t a result of a real threat.
Either can be harmful though.
When we have a pending physical threat, like a car about to hit us or a person about to rob us, the obvious real threat can play out. However, in modern times there is more anxiety present on a day-to-day basis that is not based on an impending physical threat.
Decisions and Actions When Your Physical Life is Not Currently At Risk
In general, with a pandemic still roaring through our world, and hurricanes and other natural disasters occurring, day to day stress, or chronic stress, plagues us.
In these cases, the “freeze” response seems more prevalent. This includes antidotal responses such as:
- Not being able to make decisions.
- Making decisions that do not move you forward.
- Avoiding progress and day to day activities of life.
- Not taking action at all. Hoping everything will just return to normal.
This can impact our life and work in many ways.
Major Events, Higher Stress, Bigger Impact of Freezing
In the past couple of years, many of us have had more anxiety in general due to the pandemic, and personally, I live in Louisiana, and we have had our share of hurricanes. When this type of ongoing stress enters our life, it is important to not get stuck. To be able to keep living and moving forward in life. The decisions we face must be made. The actions taken.
Sometimes we can stay ahead of it. We cannot plan for everything. Usually our highest level of stress comes when something unexpected occurs. However, we can plan for some things. For example:
- Have an emergency fund to provide financial resources if something happens.
- If you know you live in hurricane, flood, tornado, or other natural disaster, make sure you have a plan, in advance, for what you will do in case they arise. Will you evacuate, will you still have work, do you have a generator, etc.
- If you live or work in a dangerous area, plan to leave when others are leaving, have an alarm system, etc.
It is always beneficial to get ahead of the threats in our life. But, many fears and significant anxiety come because the threat, real or perceived, was not expected.
How Can You Keep Moving?
Getting ahead of our anxiety is the most important way to keep our lives moving. Here is a process when chronic anxiety threatens to keep you stuck:
- Write it all down – if something happens unexpected, take the time to stop and write down the decisions or actions that may be required. Making a list, and prioritizing the issues at hand, is worth it to make the best decisions and take the best steps forward.
- Options and Choices – Once you do have your list, it is always good to add options and choices to it. Usually there is more than one path forward. The first round of options should not be prioritized. You just want to get them all on the table. Knowing we do have options helps us to not feel so trapped.
- Pros and Cons – Then we can evaluate the pros and cons of the various options. This will help us narrow down the best decision or course of action.
- Prioritize – choose the best options based on the information you have at hand.
- Take action – create an action plan that ensures the best possible outcomes and take action. The plan doesn’t help if you don’t do anything. You are still frozen then. Life is in limbo. Life in limbo can increase our anxiety.
If you work through this process, then you have additional options for help. A trusted friend or family member, a counselor, or pastor may be an excellent sounding board to help you move forward.
Additionally, we can pray. God wants to help us and give us guidance and direction. But, I feel like we need to do our part. We can ask the Lord for wisdom in the process, to open and shut the right doors, and to give us peace as we are moving forward.
Honestly, there will always be times that we don’t have any great options. The Lord can still help us find the best path given the situation.
Fight or Flight?
Admittedly, I am probably more of a fighter. Some instances may require that. If a dog is attacking a child, I can’t wait for pros and cons. If a car is about to hit me, I probably need to flee and get out of the way.
But when time allows, even just a little, it can be helpful to walk through this process. It helps provide some objectivity to the situation, keeps us moving forward, and may provide the best possible path, even when there isn’t a perfect solution.
If you are in a stressful situation and need some help to process, we have counselors at Crossroads available to help. Call us at 225-341-4147.