How To Break Out Of 'Freeze Mode' & Finally Get Things Done

Stress can make you feel helpless in accomplishing your goals. But it's not forever.

woman in her 20s with natural curly dark hair and a blue tank top Cookie Studios / shutterstock 

We’re taught that being busy is a good thing. We’re always occupied, on the go, and one step ahead. But this nonstop lifestyle, in which we have no time for anything but our obligations, can take a serious toll on our wellbeing. 

Our modern world makes it nearly impossible for us not to feel stressed. Between deadlines, bills, traffic, and debt, we can easily fall sick and stagnant. We would all like to break out of cycles and progress toward our goals, but we can’t do so until we’ve sorted out our emotions and ensured our minds are at peace.


Stress goes beyond our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, the automatic response to a perceived threat. It can cause us to enter something called freeze mode, a state in which we find it nearly impossible to take any action. Think of a deer in headlights: the animal senses oncoming danger yet it remains rooted to the spot.


In terms of daily life, freeze mode can translate into avoiding tasks because they seem overwhelming, not being able to make decisions, and experiencing an overall sense of dread. Even small actions like not wanting to partake in social activities, feeling a sense of heaviness in certain parts of the body, and finding that we can’t stop scrolling on social media can indicate freeze mode.

RELATED: 5 Subtle Ways Stress Completely Screws Up Your Life

How to break free from 'freeze mode' by going deeper into the problem

1. Put things in perspective

A large part of managing stress involves realizing what is in and out of your control. Stress robs you of your personal power and the influence you have over your circumstances. If there is nothing you can realistically do to resolve or improve the outcome of something, then there is no use in worrying about it. Put it out of your mind and put your energy into better things. 

Elevating your perspective endows you with the wisdom of detachment so that you let go of situations that impede you. One of the keys to detachment is to train your brain to think less and less about aspects that stress you. When you find yourself creating hurtful or disadvantageous stories in your mind, stop and refocus. Doing so will allow you to reach a healthy emotional flux in time. If you shift your focus, you can shift the outcome. And the less you worry about it, the more likely it is to be resolved.


2. Mitigate thoughts and emotions

We may not have control over everything, but one thing we absolutely can control are our thoughts and emotions—the ways in which we react to what happens to us. The reason we must learn to mitigate thoughts and emotions is not only to lower stress, but to reduce its harmful effects on our health. Negative feelings translate into health problems, especially in time. Stress lowers the immune system, impairs the digestive system, and triggers inflammation, induces anxiety and depression, and makes us say and do things we don’t mean.

Only when we acknowledge the devastating effects it has on our minds and bodies can we take the right actions to combat stress. Learning to accept, process, and ultimately control emotions will grant you not only inner peace, but physical and mental wellness.

RELATED: 14 Super-Simple Ways To Relieve Stress In 5 Minutes Or Less

3. Spend sacred time

Instead of endlessly fussing over something, participate in a more productive activity. Move your body, buy yourself something nice, cook dinner for yourself, mingle with new people, or learn a new art. Walk outside at least a few times a week by yourself, absorbing the scenery around you. Practicing your favorite hobby engages your mind and body in an enjoyable activity. Take up a craft that you love and that requires your attention. Do one thing that redirects your attention and fulfills you each day. It is equally valuable to devote time and effort to the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do.


4. Keep past, present, and future in order

Putting past, present, and future in their proper places can help you reduce anxiety about what’s to come and appreciate what is right now. Living outside of time disempowers you, while living in the now endows you with strength. When you relinquish unrealistic expectations, you start to live in the present and make the best of whatever situation you’re faced with at the moment. You harness the full might of your power and resources that are within your reach.

When you find your thoughts drifting to what could’ve been or what might be, stop them and return to the present. Center yourself by taking several deep breaths and becoming aware of your surroundings: what do you smell, feel, hear, taste, and see? Take note of the date and time. You exist here and now. Developing a healthy relationship with the notion of time destresses you.

RELATED: What Happens To Your Body When You Ignore Stress For Too Long

5. Rethink your routine

Sometimes all it takes to reduce stress is a little bit of re-thinking. If your routine is creating stress, strategize how you can avoid certain situations or encounters. Declutter your environment and energy field, freeing yourself from toxic people and detrimental habits. Give yourself a break and reduce the number of activities you have to do each day. If you see that you have extra time, you can add more tasks.


Prioritizing your activities from what’s most to least important will help keep you get organized. Be a bit more realistic with your time: don’t cram things or think you can do everything in an hour. Things usually take longer than we plan, so give yourself some extra room. Practice the principle of quality over quantity; you don’t have to get everything done in one day. Rather, concentrate on doing things the right way.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but we shouldn’t allow it to dominate our lives. Practice these actions each day to bust stress and boost serenity.

RELATED: 15 Self-Soothing Techniques To Manage Your Anxiety & Stress


Dr. Carmen Harra is a world-renowned intuitive psychologist, relationship expert, bestselling author, radio show host, and TV personality. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Vogue, US Weekly, V Magazine, Elle Magazine, and many more.