Everyone has something that makes them freeze up. Making a phone call. Getting out of bed. Checking your bank balance. There are times when these things can feel overwhelming. When you’re filled with the desire to curl up and hide. And that can be okay.

It can be good to step away, but you need to know how to step back. Think of that thing that makes you anxious, because you can retrain your emotional response to it.

Acknowledge Your Anxiety

Think of something that makes you freeze up. That makes you want to hide rather than face it. That seems completely overwhelming. Imagine it happening and let yourself experience the anxiety it causes you. If this is overwhelming, that’s okay. Let it overwhelm you. You’re going to make that feeling go away.

It can be important to remember that our emotions often don’t reflect the reality of our situation. Tell yourself that your emotions are valid. That it’s okay to feel this way but there is a more appropriate emotional response. Tell yourself that it’s time to respond with that new emotion.

Reset Your Body

Make your whole body as tense as you can, then count backward from 10 to 1. When you’ve finished your countdown, exhale and relax your muscles. Let that overwhelming emotion flood out of you. Feel it drain from your body, dragged out by your breath.

When you next breath in, imagine the air you’re breathing is your favorite color. Every the molecules of oxygen is a bundle of colored energy. Maybe they’re rainbow-colored. Maybe they sparkle like glitter. With each breath, you inhale this color and it fills you with happiness. It crackles around you like electricity.

Reprogram Your Response

When you’re ready, visualize the thing that had seemed so overwhelming. The situation that had filled you with anxiety. Raise your arms toward it and picture colored lightning shooting from your fingertips. The situation radiates waves of anxiety. Before they overwhelmed you but now they dissipate, broken down by the colored lightning.

You realize the situation that overwhelmed you holds no power over you. You can overcome it as easily as walking through smoke.


Stuart Fitzwilliam is a runner and writer living in Southern California. Following his treatment for depression, he developed a card game, Cards for Calm, that helps players deal with anxiety and negative thinking.

You can find him on Twitter at @ComicsAndNoir and @CardsForCalm.


  • Stuart Fitzwilliam

    Runner. Writer. British-Australian in Southern California. Creator of Imaginhero and Cards For Calm.

    Stuart Fitzwilliam is a runner and writer living in Southern California. Following his treatment for depression, he developed Cards for Calm™, a tool that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people reframe how they approach problems.

    Its popularity with educators and child therapists led to the creation of Imaginhero™, a game that uses superhero narratives as a framework for conveying CBT techniques. It teaches children how to use visualization, creative thinking, and mindfulness to deal with anxiety, stress, and confrontation. It shows them that imagination is their superpower.

    You can find out more at imaginhero.com.

    Twitter: twitter.com/imaginhero

    Facebook: facebook.com/Imaginhero