Have you ever felt overwhelmed and paralyzed, right before you started working on an important project? We have all been there. I can imagine that you ask yourself: why do I feel overwhelmed?
It is a protective mechanism.
Every human being carries a protective mechanism inside his brain that wants to protect against threatening situations. Many years ago, human species lived in the wilderness amongst wild and dangerous animals.
Often, people were chased by lions or other wild species. So nature designed our brains with an intelligent response mechanism to rescue us from critical circumstances. It is called the fight/flight/freeze response.
Think back of a time when you felt stressed or when you were in danger. Chances are, you have felt the adrenaline pumping through your veins at the time.
This chemical reaction stems from way back in the days, when humans often found themselves in life-threatening conditions. Whenever something frightening takes place, our brain arises the urge to either fight, flight, or freeze. In the best case scenario, we still have a chance to flee from whatever wants to attack us. In other situations, we will freeze so the predator wouldn’t find us and goes elsewhere for a delicious treat, or in the worst case, we will have to fight for our lives.
The big culprit of overwhelm
Even though these days, we are never chased with dangerous predators anymore, we still hold this fight/flight/freeze response in our brain. Whenever we experience stress in any way, this powerful response kicks in.
Often, when we set a goal to start something new or form a new habit, or when we want to begin a new endeavor like writing a novel or launching a YouTube channel, we feel very stressed out because it is all new to us. We don’t know where to start or what changes this new endeavor will entice. Thus, our brain reacts in the same way it would use to respond when a lion pursued us.
Indecision and procrastination
When the fight/flight/freeze response kicks in, metaphorically speaking, we can start to `Fight` with our new goal by being indecisive. For example, we want to start a YouTube channel but are in constant doubt about what subject the channel should be about.
The Flight response could be rendered by procrastinating the tasks at hand. In the given example of the YouTube channel, we delay the channel launch because we are to busy doing other chores or have other more important responsibilities
Lastly, the freeze response can be expressed by feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by everything we have to execute in order to launch our Channel or produce videos.
Your brain to the rescue
In its attempt to save us from a dangerous (stressful) situation, our brain tricks us into these strange behaviors were we either battle ourselves about specific details of our goal, procrastinate or feel paralyzed and overwhelmed by the task at hand.
Hopefully, this explains a lot. So you never have to ask yourself: `Why do I feel overwhelmed?` again. Because you now know what causes you to feel overwhelmed when you determine a new goal or dream for yourself.
It is not your fault!
As you can see, it isn’t your fault at all! It doesn’t mean you are less than others who did already accomplish their goal, or it doesn’t mean you are lazy. It`s just your brain kicking in because it wants to keep you safe.
Now that we know what is going on with us, we can do something about it!
There are several ways we can tackle this problem. The good news is, now that we know why we are exhibiting these behaviors, we already know what to expect when we set a new goal for ourselves. We can foresee the urge to procrastinate. We can expect indecisiveness and we won’t be surprised anymore if we feel overwhelmed. These feelings and behaviors can kick in until you have turned the actions you take towards your goal into a habit. It takes a minimum of twenty-one days to ingrain a new habit in your brain, so be prepared!
How can we beat this fight/flight/freeze response?
There are several ways to do this. As a personal growth and Life-coach, I have tried numerous methods to beat my own fight/flight/freeze response in various situations.
Simplicity goes a long way.
Although lots of these techniques worked to some degree, the easiest and simplest thing I ever tried was the 5-second rule. Mel Robbins invented this 5-second rule. It consists of counting backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO, and subsequently take action whenever you have the instinct to act on a goal.
When you feel too paralyzed, scared, or overwhelmed to start to act on your goal, it is caused by your brain who wants to avoid stressful or dangerous situations. But if you count backward in your head; 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO, and start whatever you wanted to take action on, your brain has no chance to come up with excuses.
Is that all there is to it?
Yes, it is! I have accomplished many goals in my life, but the hardest thing for me, as an evening person, was to get up early. Every day I set my alarm at 6h30. Unfortunately, most days, I rolled out of bed by 7 in the morning because I couldn’t stop snoozing and I was never able to get out of bed in time. I desperately wanted to become an early bird. I never managed to become one until I discovered the 5-second rule.
Small steps brought me there.
I first switched my waking time to 6 o clock with the 5-second rule. I recorded my voice counting backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO, and turned this into my alarm sound. The first day I tried this approach, I succeeded, without hitting the snooze button. That was the first time I was able to do this! I also used the rule to go to bed early.
I am currently in the process of waking up even earlier because I want to be up at 5 in the morning. I do this by setting my alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier every few weeks, so I don’t feel sleep-deprived during the day. Thanks to the 5-second rule, I am convinced this is going to work, .
My advice to you:
I would strongly advise you to start using the 5-second rule in your own life. Whenever you feel overwhelmed or paralyzed, count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and start working on whatever it is you want to work on even if it is just for 5 minutes. It made such a significant difference in my life. And it will change your life too!
I wish you the very best of luck with all your endeavors.
Let me know in the comments below how you are going to apply the 5-second rule in your life!