When Anxiety Stops You from Moving Forward

August 3, 2021 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Anxiety can be paralyzing. I know that there have been many times when I have experienced anxiety that has stopped me in my tracks, and I have felt that it was physically impossible to move forward.

However, anxiety can be more than just physically paralyzing. Sometimes, anxiety can be mentally paralyzing. Think about times in which maybe you've found that all of the symptoms of anxiety you were experiencing at the time were just terribly overwhelming that you felt you couldn't work, sleep, or attend to other daily responsibilities.

Why Anxiety Can Stop You from Moving Forward

Maybe your anxiety keeps you from moving forward and accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself. There have been goals that I have tried to accomplish in life that I've put off simply because I felt paralyzed.

For example, I have often had a hard time with procrastination. When I was in graduate school, I struggled with procrastination, and, as a result, I would often find myself rushing to meet deadlines. I would often see the amount of work needed for a particular project, and, after finding the work daunting, I would find it physically impossible to take any action.

Then, self-doubt and fears about what if would creep in. I would reflect on any instance that I could relate to the task at hand in which I failed in the past. I would also look at the task as a mountainous task that, if not completed successfully, would essentially result in terrible consequences. So, instead of confronting the task and trying to deal with the anxiety, I would simply avoid it and do whatever I could to keep from dealing with it.

When it comes to procrastination, this can sometimes be related to anxiety because maybe you feel overwhelmed by the task you are trying to complete or other tasks that are associated with it.

How to Move Forward

Since learning about and figuring out ways to cope, whenever I recognize that I am beginning to stop in my tracks instead of moving forward, I tell myself that I need to use the tools in my toolbox. Here are three of these tools:

  1. The first strategy is one I teach students, which is to break down tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. Breaking down a task into smaller pieces can make it seem less daunting, and it can keep you focused on each piece as you work on it. This can help you stay in the moment rather than letting your mind dwell on all of the possibilities.
  2. This leads to the second strategy. Anxiety can often lead to catastrophic thinking, where the worst-case scenario is imagined. But, unless I can tell the future, I know that I don't know what is going to happen. So, approaching a task or goal one step at a time, one day at a time, and reminding yourself of this, can help you feel less intimidated by all of the possibilities of what can happen in the future.
  3. Practice self-care strategies such as meditation, exercise, or journaling. Using self-care strategies is a great way to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed. And it is helpful to be mindful of the reason that you are using these strategies. For example, you can journal about the anxiety you are experiencing surrounding a task you are confronted with, your procrastination, and the difficulty you are having moving forward to complete it.

Try these strategies to help you move forward when you feel paralyzed by anxiety. Share any techniques that you find helpful in the comments below.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, August 3). When Anxiety Stops You from Moving Forward, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Lizanne Corbit
August, 3 2021 at 6:23 pm

I love your suggestions for how to move forward. The link between anxiety and fear or action of moving forward is such a common one. It can be easy to let ourselves get frozen by the anxiety and feel overwhelmed. Breaking down our big goals into small, manageable steps is huge and it's a wonderful win-win because accomplishing those steps does wonders for our self-esteem.

August, 5 2021 at 10:16 am

Hi Lizanne,
Such a great point that accomplishing each of the steps on the way to a larger goal can help build your self-esteem! I absolutely agree that this can help you feel more confident and I think it is also motivating and helps you continue to move forward.
Thank you so much for your thoughts!
Hope you are well,

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