Here is one of the ways to settle and reset your system when you are anxious, stressed, or feeling overwhelmed.

Do one of the Five F’s movements when it feels like you have driven off the cliff or are about to. Remember to start with the Navigating the Abyss video to give you background and context.

The five major ways you react to fear are fight, flight, freeze, fix, and familiar. Most of these happen habitually. They are triggered by your subconscious mind without you even realizing it’s happening until you’re right in the middle of it.

Freeze reactions will include wanting to stop, suppress, limit, compress, shrink, constrict, retract, or condense. Freeze will feel like you are trying to create distance by stopping and contracting.

Choose this Freeze sequence when you want to stop or reduce conflict by constricting – when you want to control the situation by limiting your relative movement to the people, things, thoughts, or feelings near you.


Freeze fear feels like you want to stop.

Five F’s Freeze Reset Sequence

Detect Fear

The first step is to realize you feel like you want to stop, suppress, limit, compress, shrink, constrict, retract, or condense. If you feel your energy ramping up toward anxiety, your subconscious mind will look for a familiar fear pattern to assign. Your fear signal may typically be freeze or it may be one of the others and the desire to freeze may only come up with certain people, places, or situations.

Acknowledge Freeze Signal

Your fear triggers will be habitual. In every situation, you will have a defensive pattern that is waiting to be triggered. When you feel your energy starting to build and it starts to feel uncomfortable, feel for the specific fear signal your subconscious mind is demanding.

If it is freeze, your mind will be telling you to stop so that you can create more distance. Freeze demands will want you to stop and compress – halt momentum and pull yourself inward.

Name Preferred Action

After you detect fear rising in your system, decide what you would rather be doing or feeling. Give yourself a preferred destination, action, goal, or intention. Naming the alternative action will help your mind begin to reconfigure away from anxiety and toward your stated goal. Choosing what you would rather do creates a trajectory your energy will try to accommodate.

(After each step, listen to your internal signals. If it feels like you are ready to reengage with your intended tasks, shift to getting things done. If you still feel hesitant or resistant, go on to the next step.)

Indulge Freeze Demand

After you determine that you feel the need to freeze and have named what you would rather be doing, look for a physical way to indulge the freeze demand. Give your subconscious mind the feeling of freeze without stopping or collapsing. Find something with static physical resistance and put forth the amount of energy necessary to match or exceed your freeze signal. In the fitness world, this would be considered an isometric movement.

What that is will depend on your general health, fitness level, and any specific physical limitations. The simplest example would be pressing your palms together in from of your chest. Clasping your hands in front of your chest and then pulling them apart would also work. Isometric movement will entail either a static pull, push, or hold. It will be something where you contract opposing muscle groups without moving. Find something you can do without maxing out your heart rate and without breathing too heavily. It should be vigorous without being exhausting.  

You are looking for a movement to mimic your freeze response. Take 30 seconds to feel what you are feeling and then determine what it seems like your subconscious mind wants you to do. This is part of the practice of awareness. As you do it, you will get better at becoming aware of the demand. Listen for things you don’t expect. Don’t try to reason it out. Quietly feel for the impulses. They won’t come in sentences, they will be vague feelings. If you are coming to this practice after your anxiety has already blossomed, the specific freeze demand might be obvious. There might be a siren in your head telling you what to do. 

Be creative. Look for things that will have a long-term benefit to your health. Regular, healthy isometric movements lead to increases in strength and endurance.  They will exercise your heart and the rest of your circulatory system. Making healthy physical efforts part of your daily life will also help to down-regulate your nervous system.

As you indulge the fear signal with isometric movements, your anxiety will wane. You are burning up the energy you have stored which satisfies your subconscious mind. If it doesn’t feel like you are getting less anxious, you may not have done the movement long or vigorously enough or you might have another fear signal (fight, flight, fix, or familiar) that needs to be satisfied. Check-in with what you are feeling. If it still feels like you have some freeze in you, find something else isometric to do. Try to bend something that is unbendable. Bend your arm 90 degrees at the elbow and hold it there with the other hand while you try to bend it farther. You want to challenge yourself vigorously enough to get your energy circulating without complete exhaustion.

(Listen to your internal signals. If it feels like you are ready to reengage with your intended tasks, shift to getting things done. If you still feel hesitant or resistant, go on to the next step.)

Redirect Freeze Movement

After it feels like you have exhausted your anxious energy, the next step will be to add movement. Isometric exercises that allow some movement are considered isotonic movements. If your indulge movement was to press your hands together, maintain that vigorous pressure and then allow your hands to travel slowly from the middle toward one shoulder and then back toward the other. If you are doing static isometric curls, slowly let your arm bend and straighten while you maintain pressure.

Isotonic movements are any movements that have opposing pressure during the movement. Pull-ups, squats, and push-ups use the weight of your body to provide opposition in both directions. Any weighted exercise done slowly is isotonic.

The best movements for this will start isometric and then become isotonic. That will highlight the change in intention to your body, mind, and emotions.

You are looking to maintain the physical and mental challenge while adding awareness to the shift from rigid opposition to conscious, controlled movement.

As you do the movement, bring your attention to the feeling of moving while engaging your muscles. Your intention will be to alter the focus of your subconscious mind away from the freeze signal. You are looking to redirect the fear from your indulging movements toward controlled movements. The indulging movement in the previous step connected your freeze fear to a sympathetic or parallel non-movement, now you will transition from that fear and focus on maintaining control while moving. 

Feel for the sensations that accompany the controlled movement. Use a slow half squat as an example. Feeling the sensations of coming up will be familiar. Lower yourself slowly and feel for which muscles are helping you to control your descent. After you explore the descent, connect the movement with your decision to move. Start by holding the half squat and then mentally say “I’m going to move now” and complete the cycle.

Connect to the exact point where you decide to go from not moving (freezing) to moving. You are looking to accept that you remain in control when you go from the previous state (the static tension of freeze) and start moving.

Continue with the movement until you can accept they you are still in control while moving. The desire to limit movement can have a big emotional component. Feel your acceptance of movement and how it feels different than the need to freeze. Make sure you can distinctly identify the difference in sensations.

Remember that your goal is to signal to your subconscious mind that you are no longer in freeze fear mode, you have released the threat, are comfortable moving and ready to reconnect with your intentions for the day.

(Listen to your internal signals. If it feels like you are ready to reengage with your intended tasks, shift to getting things done. If you still feel hesitant or resistant, go on to the next step.)

Transitional Freeze Movement

The next step is to take another step away from your fear by gradually reducing the amount of opposition in your movements and adding complexity. The goal is to engage your mind with something a bit more complex while reducing the effort you are expending. You want to go from tense to fluid. Most of your anxiety will be mentally created and fueled. You are looking to occupy your mind with the controlled transition from hard to flowing.

Look for something that has a series of movements that allow you to concentrate on a decreasing degree of tension. Yoga asanas, Karate katas, Tai Chi forms, modern dance, breakdance, or some of my favorite, the Yang series from Paul Grilley. Feel free to make up your own. Search YouTube for any of the things above for millions of examples. When you find one you like, start by doing it with isotonic tension, make it harder than it is. As you repeat it, reduce the applied tension and start concentrating on ways to be more supple, rhythmic, and playful. If you have been using weights in the previous steps, gradually reduce the weight, and feel the freedom weightlessness allows. As the weight decreases, increase the range of motion or add additional movements.

You want to feel the shift from added-tension to released-tension. I exercise using weighted bats called Clubbells.  There is an infinite number of ways to utilize them from simple swings to complex multi-part movements. The heavier the clubbell, the more isotonic tension. As I use lighter clubbells, or if I only use one instead of two, I reduce the effort, increase the complexity, and search for fluidity. The concentration increases my connection. I focus not only on the mechanics of the movement but also the subtleties of seeking to flow.

Whatever you find and use for this step, keep in mind that you are looking for something that you can do and transition from hard to flowing. You want to create a sense of calm self-assurance. Find a series of movements that you can do with a flowing grace. Set your intention to be soft and fluid. Feel yourself building momentum toward efficiency, playfulness, and productivity.

Take Action

Ready, set, GO! You are ready to do the thing you named above in the Name Preferred Action. Allow yourself to hold onto the feeling you created in the previous step and seamlessly flow back into getting things done.

Following the above suggestions will get a lot of energy moving. Use it productively. If you don’t, it will build up in your system and your mind will want to label it as anxiety. As you transition back into your everyday activities, feel the energy and momentum as fuel. Feel it as life force or vitality. Feel it like a superpower. Save the world, do the laundry, paint a masterpiece, create a spreadsheet, go to the gym, but do something beneficial. Do something that has value to you. Use your superpower wisely, don’t let it reconfigure to anxiety.

Your long-term goal will be to go through your day building and expending your energy as efficiently and productively as possible. When you rest, feel the rejuvenation it allows, not as weakness or lack of will. Every time you feel your energy start to build toward anxiety, start at the beginning of this movement and follow the steps. The sooner you decide to move away from your anxiety habit, the easier it will be to transition back to productivity.

Here is a description of each of your typical fear responses.

Your personality is the sum total of your habits. Every habit has a bunch of moving parts – physical, mental, and emotional. Habits have actions, reactions, and responses. Let’s call these things components.

The most influential components of your habits are the ones attached to your fears. You react in habitual ways to habitual triggers. Those reactions create a cascade of other reactions that form movements, thoughts, and emotions. The sequence of these reactions shape a large part of your personality. Those reactions influence how you interact and respond to potential threats and opportunities.

You are who, what, and how you are based primarily on your habitual reactions. And fear is the main trigger for those habitual reactions nearly 100% of the time.

The five major ways you react to fear are fight, flight, freeze, fix, and familiar. Most of these happen habitually. They are triggered by your subconscious mind sometimes without you even realizing it’s happening. You are probably familiar with fight, flight, and freeze.

Fight fear feels like you want to engage. Fight reactions would include anger, frustration, conflict, contradiction, and altercation (physical, mental, or emotional). Fight will feel like you are trying to create distance by pushing things, peoples, ideas, possibilities, thoughts, energies and emotions away from you. You might also fight external influences. Fight will have lots of active resistance to change.

Flight fear feels like you want to disengage. Flight reactions are things like distancing, running away, distraction, and avoidance. How often have you been chatting and someone inexplicably interrupts or changes the subject? That is a flight response. They fear the potential trajectory of the conversation and seek to move away from it. Every distraction is a flight response. Spacing out and over-talking are flight responses. Flight will be a desire to control change.

Freeze fear feels like you want to stop or limit change. Freeze is expressed as stubbornness, inattention, and shutting down (physically, mentally, or emotionally). Emotionally, men have a greater tendency to use the freeze response than women. When things get a little too intimate, we men tend to forcefully stop our emotions because of a fear of appearing weak or the fear of losing control … or the subconscious fear of not knowing what might happen next. Stagnation is a freeze response. Freeze will feel hard and inflexible. Surrender, submission, quitting, and resignation are freeze responses because they all seek to stop something. Got something in your life that is lifeless and stagnant? If so, there is freeze fear underneath it somewhere.

Fix and Familiar may be new fear responses to you, but they’re equally as common as the first three. You may even find yourself nodding along as you read their descriptions, identifying with how you tend to react in those ways.

Fix fear will feel like you want to control, manage, or manipulate. Fix is what you do to resolve threats, to find some sort of balance. Do you bargain to find some middle ground, remedy, or compromise? Do you placate, justify, or make excuses? Do you frantically try to find a way to make your fear go away by changing something or someone in your environment? If so, you are a fixer. “Yeah, but” is a fix response. Parenting can feel like fixing much of the time. Do you compromise to appease? Are you looking for resolution or avoid conflict? The desire to assuage, placate, coerce, manipulate, seduce, moderate, or convince are fix responses. Fix responses will seek to balance conflicts, threats, and opportunities. Fix will feel like you are trying to balance conflicting or uncomfortable possibilities.

Familiar fear will feel like you need to do something recognizable, a repeat of a pattern.Familiar is usually your desire to physically, mentally, or emotionally reproduce or replicate something in hopes of having a known result. Habits will always have some aspect of familiar – the desire to replicate some past event and the feelings, thoughts, or emotions that resulted. Do you go to a gym or brewery after a particularly unpleasant day with the hope that it will reduce your stress because it has worked before? Doing Crossfit or yoga to lessen your stress is a pattern. Getting drunk regularly to mentally and emotionally escape is a fear response that replicates past patterns. Exercise and inebriation may work in the short term but don’t address the underlying pattern and dysfunctional habits. Exercise is healthier than getting drunk, but both are addressing the symptoms and not the cause. (Addressing the cause would be changing the factors that contributed to your shitty day.)

Do you want to completely eliminate anxiety, stress, and overwhelm? If so, then follow the steps in this program and spend enough time on each to really get a feel for them. Reach out with any questions.

When you are ready, check out our other program, The Change Militia. It is an action-based personal development program. You are going to need to do something with all the energy you are going to free up after you conquer your anxiety. The Change Militia will help you focus on what is important, achieve your goals, and keep you balanced and energized.

Our primary program, The Change Militia, is a subscription-based program offering daily concepts, movements, meditations, and things to focus on to help you supercharge your personal growth.

It is action-based with an amazing community of people. If offers a go-at-your-own-pace model to help you maximize your potential, increase your happiness, and find greater fulfillment. There is also a group call every week to help you relate others’ experiences to your situation. Click the image above for more information and to sign-up.

Pin It on Pinterest