Despite Paralyzing Anxiety, There Are Ways To Move
Paralyzing anxiety is a very descriptive term. Anxiety can be paralyzing, almost completely shutting us down. Any type of anxiety can insidiously take over our thoughts, increasing our fears to the point where we want to shut down and hole up. Worries can make us feel as though we are stuck and can’t go on. However, there are ways we can move despite this paralyzing anxiety.
At a recent meeting of a support group I co-facilitate, the topic of paralyzing anxiety dominated the discussion. No matter the type of anxiety, people expressed frustration at the fact that anxiety can stop them from fully living life.
Social anxiety, on the spectrum from shy to avoidant, can keep us home or, if we must go out, plastered against the wall or in the shadows of a corner. With generalized anxiety disorder, our worries can run wild while we remain frozen in inaction. In panic disorder, the fear of repeated panic attacks restricts where we go and what we do. Our anxious thoughts, no matter their nature, can paralyze us by preventing us from doing what we want to do. Or can they?
Does Anxiety Have To Be Paralyzing?
The thoughts (and, by extension, beliefs) are what your anxiety is telling you. Anxiety can shout at us loudly and relentlessly, telling us that there are people and situations to fear, things to worry about, yelling at us in ways that can paralyze us.
Action involves what we actually do. Sometimes, we think we can’t take any action at all. That’s when we’re stuck because of paralyzing anxiety. However, this is where we can regain our power. We can take action no matter what anxiety is telling us.
Three Ways to Move in Spite of Paralyzing Anxiety
"You don't have to feel positive and motivated at the beginning to achieve what you want to achieve." -- Aleks George Srbinoski, Maximum Mental Health
When anxiety has us shackled, it can be difficult to do anything about it. However, this is one of the tricks anxiety plays on our thoughts. When we focus on where we are, right now, in this moment and on what little thing we want or need to do in this moment, we can begin to move. Once we’ve begun to move, we’re no longer paralyzed.
In researching this after the support group meeting, I discovered a great resource. In his latest and recently released self-help book Maximum Mental Health, Aleks George Srbinoski tells us,
Many people believe that they have to be feeling positive and motivated to begin and succeed at a task. Absolutely wrong! Motivation often comes during a task and after the task is completed, not before!
2. Be in the moment, what Srbinoski calls the "now."
In other words, we can focus on the present moment and take action now. We don’t have to wait for anxiety to disappear. By bringing our mind to the present again and again, we are taking action to ignore anxiety’s ruminations about the past and worries about the future. When we are in the now, we can begin to do things we want to do and shake off the paralysis of anxiety.
3. Counter the fears.
For example, if anxiety shouts, “What if you’re not good enough?” fire back with “What if I am?” Then look for the ways you really are good enough. “What if I get into an accident?” becomes “What if I don’t, because after all, I’ve been driving for a long time and haven’t had very many accidents.” Any anxiety can be countered with a realistic truth. Put a positive spin on the “what if” game. And then act on that positive spin.
Take steps in the moment and act on your positive spin to the fears. You absolutely can move despite paralyzing anxiety.
Peterson, T. (2015, April 23). Despite Paralyzing Anxiety, There Are Ways To Move, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/04/ways-to-move-despite-paralyzing-anxiety
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
Another great post. One question I have though is what do you do when anxiety, literally, makes your body freeze up. It's like my body feels totally stiff and I can't move. Do you have any suggestions for that? Thanks.
Excellent question. Anxiety can paralyze us as far as making it almost impossible to do things, but it can also affect muscles, etc. While anxiety can impact every system of the body, it might be wise to check out this symptom with your doctor just to rule out different underlying medical causes. Outside of that, though, there are things that could help. If this is a result of the muscles becoming extremely tense/tight with anxiety, getting them to gently and gradually relax could be helpful. There are progressive muscle relaxation techniques that are great for this. In a lying or sitting position, purposely tense an area, ususally people start with the feet and work upward by body part. Hold it, and then relax. Repeat this a few times in each area. Of course, if you're already locked up, it might be difficult to tense up more! In that case, simply concentrating on an area while breathing deeply can encourage the muscles to relax. If you can move even a little, gently massaging different muscle groups can relax them. You might experiment with hot/cold packs. And, if possible, rubbing scented lotions or oils into the skin while deeply breathing in the aroma can be very effective. And to begin to prevent the freezing before it happens, getting daily exercise (even just 15 minutes) can really help both strengthen and loosen the muscles. I hope that some of these ideas will work for you or even spark ideas of your own!
Thanks so much...I will try your suggestions.
Keep trying until you find just the right thing! :)
I have a question. I suffer from Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. My panic attacks include "not feeling whole or real" or that items around me are not "real". Is there anything that can help with that feeling?
That feeling of unreality (also known as derealization when it feels like the world isn't real and depersonalization when it feels as though you aren't real) is a relatively common one in anxiety disorders. There are two great posts on HealthyPlace, as well as comments from readers, that discuss this very thing:
I hope these help!
Anxiety has definitely slowed down my life. The average time I take to make simple decisions is 2 months because I keep contemplating every cAtastrophic possibility. I usually wait until the deadline to decide. Very frustrating and exhausting.
Hi i dont really know what's wrong with me I have things to do and I just can't seem to do them I feel paralyzed and can't leave my apartment I don't even want to go outside to check my mail for even a month I got to do things I have things I need to do I just can't seem to get them done. when I do go out to go grocery shopping I want to hurry up and come back home and maybe only go out when I really really have to get something like food or food for my cat but I don't even feel like going out and having fun with socializing with people I just feel paralyzed and don't want to go anapartment and stay in my apartment and watch TV but I have to get things done and clean my apartment. I seem to be able to do one thing a day like vacuum or do one load of laundry which is nothing I should be doing 10 things in a day. Because I do have so much cleaning to do in this apartment it seems overwhelming but I can't seem to start. And when I do start something I can't seem to finish and then I start another thing and I can't finish and then I started another thing and I can't finish and then I have all these things that are undone parsley done and I get so upset and I don't know what to do. None of my family members or my mother does not understand why I can't get out of my apartment and why I feel so paralyzed has to sit on the couch and watch TV and I want to go so bad and I stand up and I just can't make myself go out the door! And sometimes I just sit at the TV and just cry because I know that I shouldn't be watching it and I have things to do but I just cannot seem to get my ass out the door and off the couch. i just feel maybe my comfort zone is just in my apartment and whenever I leave I just want to hurry up and get back which is not good I should be wanting to stay out but I do but then I don't and then I come home and then I'm mad that I did go home. I am so lost if only tell anyone about this my family they don't understand why they don't get it. And I don't either I don't know why I feel like this and its lasting for months I tell everybody I'm okay sometimes but like I said they just don't seem to understand the paralyzing feeling I have so strongly that I just pull at my clothes and tug at them i just hate myself for not being able to move and leave my apartment. This is driving me crazy I just feel so awful about myself and so disappointed in myself that I can't do the things I need to get done the things I should have done should have already been done months ago and they are not done. Do you know what this is?
What you describe sounds a great deal like depression. However, it is impossible to say with certainty what is going on with someone in this type of forum, so please don't take my observation as a definitive diagnosis. I'm suggesting it as a starting point for you. When an experience like you describe goes on for such a long time, it can be very confusing and overwhelming. Talking to a therapist can be extremely helpful. He/she can help sort out exactly what's going on (it could indeed be depression, and it could also be something different), and once you know, the therapist will help you deal with it and overcome it -- this absolutely does not have to last forever. If you're not sure how to find a local therapist, start with your regular doctor. Doctors can be of great help in pointing you in the right direction for the right kind of help based on your symptoms and experiences. Don't give up! With the right help, you can take back your life.
I feel like I'm reading my own thoughts. I too, can't leave my apartment. I constantly cancel appointments and plans. If I am out, I just want to be home. I've even lost the strength to shower, clean, text people back, etc. I can't believe how many people feel this way. It's something to do with the world now. Everything is stressful. It's become an awful way of living. So we shut ourselves down and stay inside. How are you doing these days?
Much of what you mention sounds like depression. I can't make a diagnosis based on a few sentences, of course, so this is just an informal observation based on a few remarks. It might be worth seeing your doctor or a mental health therapist. He or she can help you determine what's going on and how to move forward toward feeling better again. You deserve to feel well.
I seem to be stuck in a cycle that never ends. Every night I always find myself worrying about anything and everything, I always ene up imagining scenarios in my head of me talking to my doctor about my anxiety and going to see him. But I never end up doing it. I don't know what to do, even if I got to the doctors, I doubt I would be able to speak about it. My anxiety makes it really hard for me to talk sometimes. Thank you for writing your post, as it has explained some things to me.
You are not alone in this. Talking to a doctor or therapist can be incredibly helpful for anxiety, yet anxiety keeps us from doing that easily. Often, it can be helpful to list your anxiety symptoms (or even take an online assessment and print it out) to use as a tool to help communicate. You can simply say that it's hard to explain what's going on, so you completed the list/test. I've done this, and I find that doctors appreciate it. It serves as an ice-breaker while providing information. I'm glad that this post was useful to you. Take small steps, and don't give up on yourself. You can move!
Thank you very much! I will try my best to motivate myself to do this, hopefully I will!
Don't doubt yourself! Think in terms of moments rather than a big, overwhelming picture. It's moving "now," in this moment that will get you to the next -- don't worry about the next until you're there. :)
I suffer from severe anxiety. I can't even put it into words what happens to me, and the best way to describe my anxiety is a roller coaster ride for hours. I have only one thing I can do...take a Xanax and nausea medication and lay down and wait to fall asleep and wake-up and sometimes my anxiety is gone. I have been dealing with severe anxiety for over 30 years.
Hi Peggy Sue,
Roller coaster is a good description. I am someone who hates roller coaster rides! :) I'm sorry to hear that you have bee dealing with this for so long. If you have Xanax, you are seeing a doctor, but have you tried seeing a therapist? Working with someone in person who knows about anxiety and how to deal with it can be really helpful. This article has information about counseling and how to find a counselor: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-co…
My anxiety makes me think that I have to either do everything at one time or Nothing at All. I'm exhausted always. I love night time because nothing is expected of me and nighttime. When the morning light comes the phone calls the paperwork the appointments all the things I should be doing well this is the time I should be doing it. I just feel like I can't do it. I have been on a roller-coaster medically and I do suffer from depression as well. My world has become very very small. I have nobody to talk to. I have nowhere to turn. I feel like I'm screaming inside don't you remember who I am. And instead I'm just looking foolish and lazy in dumb. I don't know how to get past it. I'm constantly in my own way. I am my biggest obstacle and I have no way around me. What do you recommend? How do I get passed my own self? How do I find people again? And if I can find people how do I talk to them and make them understand? Why don't people remember who I used to be and who I should still be? Yes I have Medical issues now. I never had them before. I am expected to be alert and energetic and all those things I was and I'm just paralyzed the anxiety is overwhelming.!
That feeling of isolation -- including being isolated from the person you want to be -- is a very common part of depression and anxiety. It's frightening and hard to talk about, hard to get people to listen and understand, so many people sadly just don't talk about it. That can make you feel like you're the only one, and that can make things even worse. Know that you aren't alone in this no matter how it feels. You also don't have to remain isolated. There are ways through this. Despite how it feels, this is temporary.
Have you considered working with a therapist? Therapy is very effective for everything that you've described. There is traditional in-person therapy as well as online therapy. Both options can be helpful. Here are some helpful resources for finding a therapist:
Two reputable sources of online therapy are talkspace.com and betterhelp.com (HealthyPlace has no connection to either of these, nor do we endorse any single organization either online or off because each individual is different, and what works great for one person may not work as well for someone else. We like to provide a variety of resources for people to investigate.)
Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-…
Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-do…
Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-co…
You truly can begin to move forward and reclaim yourself and your life.