It’s not uncommon to find ourselves standing at the crossroads of responsibilities, deadlines, personal goals, and the unforeseen challenges that life throws our way. Sometimes, the sheer volume and complexity of these demands can become overwhelming, leading to a state many describe as being “frozen in overwhelm.” This term captures a profound emotional and psychological state where one feels immobilised by the weight of their circumstances, unable to move forward, make decisions, or take action.

The Essence of Being Frozen in Overwhelm

Being frozen in overwhelm is more than just a moment of hesitation or indecision; it’s a comprehensive emotional state. Imagine a deer caught in headlights, but instead of a vehicle, it’s your tasks, obligations, and life’s uncertainties barreling down. This state is characterised by a mix of anxiety, stress, fatigue, and a paradoxical sense of paralysis despite an internal urgency to act. It’s a response to the feeling of drowning in too much to do, too many choices, and too little time or resources.

Psychological Roots

Psychologically, being frozen in overwhelm is tied to our brain’s response to perceived threats. Our primal fight, flight, or freeze responses kick in when faced with danger. In modern times, these “dangers” have evolved from physical threats to psychological ones—deadlines, financial pressures, social expectations. For some, the default becomes “freeze,” a state of being overwhelmed where decision-making feels impossible.

The Impact of Modern Life

Modern life, with its fast pace, constant connectivity, and societal pressures, exacerbates this feeling. The bombardment of information, the illusion of everyone else having it together on social media, and the cultural narrative that busyness equals worthiness contribute significantly. This societal backdrop sets a stage where being overwhelmed isn’t just a personal struggle; it’s a collective one.

Signs You’re Frozen in Overwhelm

Identifying when you’re frozen in overwhelm is the first step towards thawing. Some signs include:

  • Procrastination: Putting off tasks because they feel too daunting.
  • Indecision: Struggling to make even simple decisions.
  • Fatigue: Feeling mentally and physically drained despite having done little.
  • Anxiety: A constant, nagging worry about everything you’re not doing.
  • Detachment: Withdrawing from responsibilities and social interactions.

Strategies to Unfreeze Yourself

Acknowledge and Accept

The first step in moving forward is acknowledging your feelings without judgment. Accept that feeling overwhelmed is a natural response to your current situation, not a reflection of your capability or worth. If you can, try and be really kind to yourself and tell yourself that this is just a moment in time.

Break It Down

Overwhelm often comes from looking at the big picture without a clear starting point. Break your tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Focus on what you can do right now, however small that might be. When I am in the frozen of overwhelm, I look for the smallest and easiest thing I can do. Once I’ve done that, I look for the next smallest and easiest thing. Before long, I realise I have actually achieved a couple of things and, not only do I feel good but I also feel relieved that I’ve actually done something.

Set Boundaries

Learn to say no. Setting boundaries around your time and energy is crucial in preventing overload and preserving your mental health. I know this one is easier said than done, and I have said this many times before, start with saying no to something small, something that won’t trigger a big issue with someone. If you try and tackle something that is going to “blow up” it will leave you feeling defeated and you won’t be tempted to do it again. By starting small it helps you to recognise how it feels and often has a positive effect and gives you the confidence to do it again.

Seek Support

You don’t have to face everything alone and I know you know this, but when you are in frozen overwhelm mode, it can feel overwhelming to try and look for support. Why not start with reaching out to a friend you know who may have been overwhelmed before, or lean on your family. Depending on where you work you may also have access to professional counselling paid by your organisation. Regardless of who you talk to, just opening up, admitting how you feel to someone can make a big difference.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your physical and mental well-being can bolster your resilience against overwhelm. Ensure you’re getting enough rest, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. When we are overwhelmed our self-care is most likely the one thing that goes to the bottom of our list. Is there one thing you can do, even every couple of days that helps you? It could be as simple as taking 5 minutes to enjoy a cup of tea outside, doing a 2 minute meditation or calling a friend for a quick chat. These very small acts of self kindness can be a beautiful gift to yourself.

Being frozen in overwhelm is a sign that it’s time to pause, reassess, and make changes. It’s a reminder that, while you may not control everything that happens to you, you have the power to control how you respond. By understanding and navigating these icy waters with compassion and intention, you can find your way back to solid ground, one step at a time.

Similar Posts