My husband and I move between houses twice a year and although I have been doing this for several years, I am even more overwhelmed by the task. The repeated bi-annual chore of packing, moving, and setting up home has not developed into skill set of efficiency. Instead, each year the struggle increases in accordance to my resistance. Why repeatedly resist the task when inevitably it only intensives the struggle? Why do I allow myself to believe ANY other task is more important than moving?
Resistance is common when making changes or trying something new. This is because the mind and body are trying to keep us safe, comfortable, and in the realm of what we already know. When we try something different, it triggers our amygdala, which processes memory, decision making and emotional reactions. Feelings of risk and fear of the unknown often engage our sympathetic nervous system—the fight, flight or freeze response. The sympathetic nervous system is one half of our autonomic nervous system which controls our body’s involuntary actions. As the stress response is activated our heart rate, respiration and blood pressure increase preparing us for action. The freeze response instead conserves our energy when we feel there is no hope in trying to fight or flee. Even trying something new that we know will be good for us can elicit these alarms.
My freeze response was deeply engaged as I lived amongst scores of unpacked boxes crowding almost all livable space. This reaction of being wide eyed and idle did not reduce the pressure I was feeling. Eventually I broke it down into more manageable steps or fights. I engaged in small tussles with the threat—ones which I knew I could win. I set the timer for 15 minute battles and was impressed on how much I could get done. Based on the size of the mess I didn’t think such a short amount of time could make a difference. I longed for immediate gratification but found that smaller steps created the momentum I needed to push past the emotional resistance when facing a challenge. Soon, resistance fell way to a movement which carried me through the stagnant feelings of being overwhelmed.