By Bryan Garcia he/him/his
Have you been feeling like you are having trouble focusing in class or at work? Maybe you have done everything in your power to distract yourself and avoid doing that one thing on your “to-do” list. Do you feel extra tired despite having gotten 8 hours of sleep last night? Stiffness in your joints? No motivation? A sense of dread? These are all signs that you might be stuck in “Freeze Mode” and you are not alone.
We are amazing beings and it is normal to go into a sort of chronic freeze after repeated stress and trauma. This shock mode might make us turn inward when deep fears have been triggered. There could be a combination of emotional, economic, physical, mental, and even spiritual strain that we could be feeling at one point or another or many at the same time. Those who already faced immense challenges and hardships have only felt further debilitated since the pandemic began, especially when you are made to feel like you have to keep on going as normal when it comes to work, school, or other social obligations. You are not to blame for any of this.
Finding a Way Out
Paying attention to our thoughts and the way our bodies react can prove to be helpful, especially if we are noticing when we are getting triggered. Am I feeling sweaty? Is my breathing becoming short or my face red-hot? Heart racing? If so, try to focus on your breathing and feel your feet on the ground or your body in that chair. Call someone you trust – a friend or family. Video chat, call, or text. You decide which one works best for you.
Take the extra time to be mindful of the moments when you are not feeling stressed or overwhelmed and consumed by the thoughts of what is going wrong. Taking a mental photograph to remember and remind yourself that there are moments like this. When worry is not a cloud over our heads and when we feel content and at peace. When we feel some resemblance to safety and can relax. These moments exist.
It’s Okay to Not be Okay
Some days, all we can manage to do is just exist and get through our days. That is okay. No one is required to be perfect. We live in a world where man-made systems of injustice, despair, and hopelessness make it to where kindness towards others and especially ourselves is considered a radical and revolutionary act. Many of us want to be there for others, but if the only person we can be there for right now is ourselves, then that is more than enough. Productivity does not define your worth, so give what you have without breaking “you.” Reminders like these and those that tell us that “there will be life after this” are so important, but the reality is that it can be a challenge to take in this belief. It takes time and practice.
It is okay to acknowledge that these are tough times. Be kind to yourselves and others. Slow down if you can. Take some deep breaths when you can. Limit news or social media if you have noticed that it is a source of elevated stress. If anything, make a promise to yourself to have a cut off time for them before you start unwinding and getting ready for bed. Eat food that makes you feel good and that comforts you. Meditate, pray, journal – or something that can help you reflect on your day or be mindful of what is good now. Play. See if someone needs something that you might be able to be helpful with and offer to run an errand for them. Cherish the fact that we still have some say in how our lives look like moving forward.
Trauma is not something that can just be easily swept under the rug or tossed to the curb. It is something that requires real work, advocating for ourselves, and showing up for our needs. It also takes having the right kind of support (an online support group, therapy, friends, chosen family). It is possible for it to not consume our lives and have us perpetually on ‘pause.’
A Word on Resting
Resting is one of the most powerful ways for our bodies and minds to heal. Capitalism and colonization have tricked us into believing that rest is a privilege when it is a human right we all deserve to have. “The Nap Ministry” (@thenapministry on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) is a great resource for encouragement and support when it comes to reminding ourselves of this important healing tool. When we go against what we have been taught to hold so dearly, it gives way to the confusion, frustration, and shock of that freeze mode. So, when we dare to think that we shouldn’t have to be grinding 24/7 to make it to the top and get our share of the pie, it disrupts those systems. When we realize that there is enough for everyone to go around, we can start to decolonize wellness and reimagine the possibilities.
Join us on Thursday, October 29th from 6 PM to 7:30 PM as we talk about the ways we have felt stuck throughout the past couple of months and support one another as we find ways to grow through these challenges. Register here.