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Understanding freeze response: Signs, symptoms and solutions

In Features, Mind Health, Stories by Nicole Fuge

Feeling stuck and can’t move forward? Discover the freeze response, its signs, and how to manage it with practical tips to get back on track.

By Emily Quinn

Imagine you’re suddenly in a stressful situation, and your body decides the best course of action is to hit pause. This is the freeze response. It’s like your brain saying, “Let’s play dead until this passes.”

While fight or flight are more widely recognised, freezing is your body’s way of coping with ‘danger’, aka stress, by pausing everything. When your nervous system is overwhelmed, staying still feels like the safest option​.


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Signs You’re in Freeze Mode

How do you know if you’re experiencing the freeze response? Here are some common signs:

  • Feeling stuck: Struggling to make decisions or take action.
  • Detachment: Feeling numb or disconnected from your surroundings or your body.
  • Physical symptoms: Tense muscles, headaches, shallow breathing, or an increased heart rate.
  • Memory fog: Difficulty remembering details or events clearly.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding tasks, people, or places that stress you out​.
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How to Get Unstuck

Breaking out of freeze mode involves grounding yourself and gradually re-engaging with your surroundings. Here’s how:

  1. Recognise it: Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is a natural response to stress. It’s not your fault.
  2. Grounding exercises: Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or focusing on sensory details around you to pull yourself back to the present.
  3. Move a little: Wiggle your toes, clap your hands, or take a short walk. Even small movements can help reconnect you with your body.
  4. Start small: Tackle manageable tasks. Move a dish from one room to another or splash some cold water on your face to kickstart your system.
  5. Seek support: Reach out to a mental health professional who can offer strategies tailored to your needs​.

Breaking out of the freeze response can take time, but with patience and the right techniques, you can regain control. Remember, it’s okay to seek help and take small steps to get back on track.

hormones, mama disruptUnderstanding the freeze response and recognising its signs can empower you to manage it effectively. With simple grounding techniques, small actions, and professional support, you can overcome the freeze response and move forward with confidence.

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