Ask Mary Jo: Freezing when stressed & deleting ex's photos on social media

Hey Mary Jo,

Sometimes I get so stressed with work, I freeze. How can I get ahead of that and possibly intervene?



This is seen more commonly in someone who struggles with PTSD or a traumatic event in their life, so the first thing I will suggest is talking to a therapist. The freeze response happens when you're faced with a threat that makes your brain think you're trapped; your brain is stuck between flight or fight. Here are suggestions that can help.

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Sometimes when we panic, we take shallow breaths or even hold our breathe. Deep breaths can help interrupt the freeze.
  2. Pay attention to the physical sensations you're feeling. Being aware of what's going on in your body can help break you out of the freeze.
  3. Practice deliberate movements to break out of the freeze. Try pacing, running in place, stomping your feet, or punching a pillow.
  4. Call a family member or a family. Sometimes hearing the voice of someone you trust can make you feel calm, even if it's not about what you're experiencing.
  5. Be aware of when you're going to have a freeze moment and practice your deep breathing right away and make a plan to interrupt the feeling. Here are some other signs that a freeze moment is on its way:
  • Physical heaviness or stiffness
  • Feeling numb, clammy, or cold
  • Heart rate changes (i.e. too slow or too fast)

Hi Mary Jo,

My girlfriend has asked me to delete all pictures on social media of any ex-girlfriends. I think she's crazy, but does she have a point. Should I do it?


Dear Brad, 

This is a grey area in relationships, but the standard "rule" is if your ex is still on your profile picture, you need to update it with your new girlfriend's photo. Some people believe in discarding ex's photos as soon as they can after a breakup, whereas others are more nostalgic and old loves are part of their life story.

When it comes to your girlfriend, maybe she is concerned you have old feelings for your exes since you haven't deleted them, and this makes her feel less secure with you. This could jeopardize building trust in the relationship. 

Ultimately, it comes down to how much you love your girlfriend and how committed to her. Your exes are part of your history, and no one has a right to tell you that you cannot keep photos of people who mean a lot to you from the past. However, if this issue becomes a big deal, I would suggest you decide of which is more important to you – keeping your girlfriend or keeping your exes visible in the present. The key is talking about it; communicate your thoughts and needs and understand where each person is coming from. Avoid any choices that sacrifice being able to trust each other.