What Makes You Shut Down?


I've noticed this more and more about myself lately, and wondered if you have experienced a similar thing in your life?

When something happens in life where I must prepare to do something I don't want to do, no matter how hard I try, my mind seems to shut down and I find it hard to stay motivated or take action.

It's like your mind just shuts down and you become a useless blob for a period of time. 

For example, I've recently been on an excellent roll building my businesses – as productive and motivated as I have ever been – but all of that seemed to come to a screaching halt this past few days, and I didn't even really notice until I had to help someone else go through a similar situation.

I've had a pretty tough go of it with a tooth infection, rounds of antibiotics and some other challenges this week that have led to more visits to my dentist than I've experienced in the last 3-years combined…and for me, because I had an absolutely brutal dentist as a kid, the dentist causes higher levels of anxiety for me than it would for most people.

But what is interesting is that I found I couldn't function properly leading up to the various dentist appointments.  It wasn't that I was thinking of this the entire time, but I found myself taking comfort with food, television, reading magazines and other activities that ended up to be quite unproductive. 

Does the same thing happen to you when you are leading up to an event, meeting or challenge that causes you anxiety, fear or uncertainty?


Depending on your level of stress, anxiety, fear and uncertainty – losing productivity could become chronic if we can't figure out a way to get around this 'SHUT DOWN' effect our body uses to deal with our emotional challenges. 

Here is what I've been doing lately to make sure I can defeat this 'Shut Down' effect – see if it works for you too…

Try and get to the root of the problem. 

Why have you fallen into this pattern now – for most of us, this happens when we are overwhelmed or suffer anxiety over something in our lives.   I gave the example of pending dentist appointments as one source of anxiety. 

Often if we fear something coming – either a major change, major event,  our mind goes into defensive mode and pretty much shuts down.  After a few days of feeling like this, suddenly we have created a new learned habit – the bad habits become the norm. 

We can't typically break out of that norm until one of two things happen:

1. We recognize and deal with the root cause – either by standing up to our fear and anxiety or getting past the event (you know how sometimes you get more energy after something you weren't looking forward to is over) — OR —

2. Something major happens that jolts us out of our current situation…say a health challenge, major embarassment or some other life altering event that suddenly breaks you out of your current pattern. 

Counting on #2 is not exactly the best scenario – it may take a lifetime for such a 'JOLT' situation to occur, and nothing says that the major life change will be positive – so let's try and figure another way out of this unproductive mindset.

We really must work on understanding, admitting and then dealing with those situations that cause us anxiety.  Sometimes these are very obvious – as were my dental challenges this past week – other times these are buried deeply and can be quite painful – as in the case of child abuse for example. 

Whatever the case, you need to find out what is getting you down?  What is causing your mind to 'Shut Down'

What is making you feel somewhat out of control?

Once you have the factor, then you need to reframe your response to that feeling so that it is no longer causing you to shut down.   In my case, I like to do a few things to help put that fear or anxiety into perspective:

  1. Write it out 20 or more times – studies have shown that just getting out the frustration or anxiety is thereputic in itself and can help ease the burden on your mind
  2. I'm a big fan of meditation (don't worry, if you haven't been able to get meditation to work for you, check out Attracting Greatness which has many techniques, but also a kick-butt section on how to quickly & effectively master meditation).  Why will meditation help?  Meditation is wonderful for helping your mind NOT overreact to life's challenges.  When meditation works, you can visualize the most anxiety-ridden situations in your life without the slightest overreaction or discomfort – in short – you learn to go with the flow and not be impacted so much by stress and anxiety. 
  3. Prepare…anxiety, stress and fear go down if we better prepare ourselves for upcoming situations.  Our typical response is to ignore the event or situation, but by dealing with it and preparing in advance, we can substantially reduce the impact that upcoming situation can have on our life. 

Let's hear from you if you have experienced this 'Shut Down' effect in your life?  What makes you 'Shut Down?" 

What sorts of things in your life cause you enough anxiety or fear to make you less effective….we all have them, leave a comment if you would like to share yours.

Make sense?

Comments on What Makes You Shut Down? Leave a Comment

August 29, 2011

Alykhan Sorathia @ 12:09 am #

my name is Alykhan and i just came across this article and realized that this is the feeling i used to and at times still do. so here my story.
I am a performer/actor so i tend to have a few of these moments. I recently had a huge show which turned out amazing i got offers etc. i while after that i had another show to do but for some reason was soo nervous anxious and did everything and looked for excuses not to do the show. while all this was going on i couldnt function properly as what its called the shut down effect. i really hate this feeling and u feel it holds me back from moving ahead cause whenever i get an opportunity this negative effect takes over

September 14, 2011

rachel @ 4:25 pm #

WOW. is all i have to say. i have happened to stumble upon these articles as well and i have shut down for the first time and i do not care about the world around me and its my way of drowning my emotional pain from being emotionally abused and it has turned me into a dark person. i can stop it but now i don't want too. it takes over me and everything wrong becomes right. the person i trust in my life told me i was "shut down, and unresponsive" to me that was good and bad. there are different levels of the "shut down effect." im going through a pretty high level. i dont want change but no change is so much worse. im only 16 and i dont know what is real. im convinced that what she (cant say who) does is because she loves me too much instead of not at all. i can understand some of her actions but others… there is no explanation and no one knows why. so i shut down. im in a world where i dont have to worry.

December 4, 2011

Kimberley Rincon @ 7:49 pm #

I too am, and have been living with extreme and chronic stress. The anxiety I feel has caused me to feel dead inside while being the only one, my family can depend on forces me to where a face and maintain a front.
I daydream constantly about how if my parents had gone to different highschools and never met…. I wouldn't be here.
I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Unresolved issues are so numerous and life altering each and every single one. I constantly fight the urge to not cry. I am so worried I am literally sick from these dilemas that face my kids (and one year old grandson)and me. My heart hurts from the strain and unresolved issues. The fear of the future is like an anchor around my neck. I miss the everyday normalcy that was stripped from my family when my second husband had a facebook relationship last February of 2010 and left us in June of 2010. The divorce is still up in the air with no closure, the recession has destroyed my childrens fathers ability to work and I am barely making it much less the multitude of issues that have come up since last year. I am lost, however still moving forward at less than a snails pace. My heart hurts and I fight emotions of saddness and frustration and rage and fear.

October 31, 2012

Anne @ 12:38 pm #

I tend to get anxious when I'm expecting something unpleasant to happen, feel threatened or don't know what I can expect from my day/week/month. I shut down, I can't get anything productive done, my muscles tense, I pace, I never quite feel relaxed, I get nauseous, the amount of social contact I can handle goes down… they don't always occur all at once, but these are the kinds of things that happen when I get like this. Depending on the situation it can take hours or days for the anxiety to go away and normalcy to return.

So I understand very well the effects of anxiety. Luckily I'm not always like this, it needs a trigger such as uncertainty or dread. Not knowing when exactly an operation is going to happen, for example (or operations in general, expectation of pain is a HUGE stressor for me)

Anne @ 1:04 pm #

I do something similar, I either joke about it (as in: "I'll be popping so many painkillers all I'll do for a week is contemplating my hands" to relieve the stress) show my fear and vunerability (so that the people around me are aware of how I feel and know I'm not just overreacting, it makes me feel safer) and just talking about it in general, so that the issue kind of 'settles' in my mind. As that happens I can look at it more objectively and think: "I won't be there to go through the process, I'll come in, sleep, and wake up one tooth less. No biggie."

Of course my rational mind can't prevent involuntary reactions like tensing, but at least it deflates the anxiety a little.

November 13, 2012

Amber @ 6:08 am #

Unfortunately, just about everything causes enough stress for me to shut down. Even the idea of cleaning, getting up, getting dressed, bathing, brushing my hair, let alone events that are stressfull for everybody, like schoolwork (I am in college). I also have a constant stress that I have no idea where it is coming from. It is just always there and has been for about twelve years. Some days are better than others, and I can do more and actually be productive. Normally I am very unproductive, which in turn stresses me, but I am already stressed by normal everyday aspects of life. I have no idea why. I wish I had more motivation. Maybe I will try meditation. I wish that I could pin-point the cause but there is just too many, and I am completely unaware of what is causing the minor stress that is just always there. I have OCD and I have wondered if that is the source of the constant stress, but I'm not sure. This post was helpful, thank you.

Amber @ 11:48 pm #

Thanks for the message and suggestions. I'm going to try that as best I can because I need to do something about this. Right now I am taking a yoga class that gets me sweating every time for an hour, I don't know if that counts as exercise. Thanks for the help. I tried meditating when I was a kid and couldn't focus my mind. I haven't tried since then though, and I am going to.
Thanks again for responding and giving me suggestions, I will make use of them. Thanks, Jeff!

November 14, 2012
November 18, 2012

Amber @ 11:37 pm #

Thanks again for the help. Yes, I can't seem to get my mind quieted. There is just so much noise in it. I will try what you said, to let them flow but not attachedly. I will try to figure out what can help quiet my mind because I haven't yet, but I'm sure I will. I already have a few ideas I haven't tried. Thanks again for all of this help. You are a very kind and helpful person. I am grateful for this help. Thanks for these suggestions because I am going to use them. I hope you are well and bless you.

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