A number of my counselling clients have describe very well the feeling of what might be called ‘anxiety brain freeze’. They explain that, sometimes, the feeling of anxiety about everything is so pronounced, that they feel temporarily stuck, unable to think, and unable to act.
I wanted to offer a small number of practical techniques that seem to work with anxiety brain freeze. Everyone is different, and so some may work for you, and some may not. But they are handy tools to have at your disposal.
SUGGESTION 1 – START WITH A SIMPLE TASK, HOWEVER RANDOM
If you cannot see your way to doing anything, one way to get yourself going is to identify one small thing you can start with. Sometimes, the list in your mind is overwhelming, and beginning with a single, identifiable task takes away the overwhelm. If you choose to try this, it’s important not to dwell too long on your choice of first task. It is more important simply to get going. You can always review things a little later.
SUGGESTION 2 – LEAN ON A TRUSTED FRIEND OR ADVISER
If you are finding it hard to trust your own initiative, then find a trusted friend, and briefly talk things through with them. See if they can help you come to a decision on a first thing to focus on. This can help to take the burden of responsibility away from your overburdened brain. It’s important to use someone you trust, as you are delegating some moral responsibility. If necessary, stray on the safe side, and choose a friend who is likely to play it safe.
SUGGESTION 3 – SPLIT DAUNTING TASKS INTO MANAGEABLE STEPS
This is a more consciously developed version of suggestion 1, useful where there is a particular thing to get done. Personally, I often use a ‘rule of three’ to split tasks. I write on a piece of paper the numbers 1 to 3, and split the intended task into three logical steps. An easy way to do this is to identify the first and last steps first – they are usually the easiest to define. Then give a name to the ‘middle bit’. The reason the ‘rule of three’ works, is that it makes tasks less daunting, and gives you a first step that is do-able.
WHY THEY WORK
I’m going to leave it there. The reason these three techniques work, is that they:
Relieve the pressure of personal responsibility. (When anxious, your confidence is sometimes compromised by reduced self-esteem.)
Relieve the pressure on working memory. (When anxious, your brain’s ability to work things out can be heavily compromised.)
Increase the focus on action. (They are designed to dispose of some of the agony of decision, so that you can start an action.)
Anxiety can cause temporary brain freeze, an inability to act or even think properly. Three tactics you can use are:
Start with a simple task, however random
Lean on a trusted friend
Split daunting tasks into manageable steps