Have you found yourself feeling paralyzed at all recently? If you read my last post, you’ll know you are not alone.
I’m finding at least once a day, and sometimes more, I’m hit by a wave of panic or fear or worry and my reptilian brain takes over. I go into freeze mode and can’t find two brain cells to rub together.
All my usual methods of coping (including others that I’ve written about recently—walking, meditation, connection, etc.) stop working. The only thing that has worked for me is lying down somewhere, whether it’s my sofa or a yoga mat or my bed, and stay absolutely still for a while.
I was pretty shocked the first few times this happened. This wasn’t the same type of pause I spoke about last week. My whole career has been about helping people through rough times, transitioning through change, and I felt incapable to even help myself.
I soon realized, though, that this lying still is just a new method of coping for me. I am thinking of these as Time Outs for grownups—in those moments I’m like an overwhelmed child who just needs space to be quiet. It’s not punishment, and it’s not trying to move forward, it’s just time to let waves of anxiety, fear, sadness pass at their own rhythm, organically, without being able to think at all, just feel.
I lie there breathing until I get a sign of life from my frozen brain again. Maybe it’s a sudden idea, or I hear my own inner voice say, “Stop it!!” or maybe I realize a pot is boiling over on the stove, but eventually my brain crawls out of its own paralysis, swims out of the waves of anxiety.
Interestingly, I have my best ideas about how to move forward for myself or help others almost as soon as these episodes are over. I quickly jot them down on the nearest slip of paper, and then I’m fine and continue with my abnormal day, business as unusual.
I read something today that reminded me of this whole process. Daniel Goleman wrote about how being resilient doesn’t mean you won’t get knocked out. Resilience just describes how quickly you recover. It’s knowing to be kind with yourself when you’re knocked out, give into it and stay still, catch your breath, and be ready for whatever happens when you’re ready to move again.
I’m not enjoying these episodes, but these strange times require us to rely on our resilience individually and collectively, and I’m trying to embrace and be grateful for my own new resilience practice.