We are experiencing so much sudden change in our lives right now, and that can be really startling for the nervous system. I have certainly felt my fight/flight/freeze response kick in repeatedly pretty much every day in the last few weeks.
This is the body’s natural, normal response to change, chaos, overwhelm, and uncertainty. Its job is to keep an eye out for danger and let us know what’s potentially dangerous. This helps us to act and react accordingly.
The only problem is this: When your nervous system is constantly on alert, it takes a big toll on your stress levels, your energy, your well-being, and your mental state.
It’s very hard to think creatively when your nervous system is activated. Instead, you might find yourself feeling like things are urgent, hard to accomplish, and extremely stressful. Any problem or obstacle feels huge and impossible.
Of course, right now, many of us ARE facing really large and horribly difficult changes, obstacles, and problems. The reality is that our nervous systems might be correct at certain times throughout the day when we are feeling fight/flight/freeze engage in our bodies.
So, what to do?
The good news is, the mind and body can work together. Listening to the nervous system, acknowledging its response, and feeling the emotions present will often help your body relax a bit and drop out of fight/flight/freeze.
If you can flow in and out of that fight/flight/freeze response, you will not store stress and tension in the body. You’ll also be able to think creatively and problem-solve through the toughest of situations. When times are hard, creative thinking is your best solution. And, it’s normal to flow in and out of different nervous system states. The goal is to not stay stuck in the fight/flight/freeze response.
Here’s a pro mind-body tip:
If you feel completely overwhelmed, terrified, panicked, and unable to see past a large obstacle or problem, it means your nervous system is activated.
This is NOT the time to problem-solve.
First, take care of your mind-body system. Feel the emotions. Allow the panic to exist for 5-10 minutes. (The time limit is important here.) Journal or express to a friend. Let yourself acknowledge all the fears.
When your 5-10 minutes are up, do a little something to help your nervous system release the fight/flight/freeze. This can be simple; think of something really comforting (or even do something comforting, like curl up with a blanket around you for a few minutes). Or, you can do this breathing exercise.
Wait to start in on problem-solving until you feel more open and relaxed in your body. Then, the ideas will be able to flow. You’ll be more agile and flexible. You’ll start to see past the extreme difficulty and into potential solutions or ideas.
Just remember: When life seems impossible, it’s just your nervous system on high alert. It’s correct; action is not possible right this minute. You’ve just gotten bad news or are facing something incredibly intense. It just isn’t the time for action. Process the emotions first, let your system move through the shock, and then you’ll start to see new ideas appear.
During times like these, you will need creativity to see new ideas, because new ideas are vital when doors appear to be closing and change is happening so rapidly. Your best trick for navigating times like these is to flow in and out of creativity so that you can shift into flexible action steps that move you forward in the face of sudden change and obstacles.
Also, if you need help right now with processing emotions and settling your nervous system, you are welcome to join one of my upcoming free virtual Sacred Spirit Circles. Join in if you need mind-body coaching, a place to feel emotions with kind, safe, support, and a sense of community during this chaotic time.