We’ve all been there.
A minor incident is sometimes all it takes to set it off: the negative spiral.
Someone close to you is accidentally rude to you. Another driver takes your parking spot. Or someone aggressively pushes into you on the train.
A negative thought spiral happens when one isolated incident triggers a mental flow of general terribleness.
It’s an awful thing to endure. It’s often a symptom of anxiety or depression but it’s also something that happens to almost everybody once in a while.
And of course, the longer the spiral goes on, the worse you feel.
This is Mental Care 101: the kind of stuff they should teach you in school but don’t.
Taking care of our mind is essential to our overall health and well-being.
It’s the ultimate self-love practice.
Besides, many of our problems are self-induced!
But when you’re trapped inside your own mental matrix it’s really difficult to see anything but the reality that you’ve created.
Thoughts are energy. They have the power to build on each other, becoming stronger and stronger over time.
This is part of the reason why the Law of Attraction works! What you focus on always expands.
But unfortunately, this works whether your thoughts are happy or stressful.
To stop the negative flow, it’s time to change direction.
Then you need to understand, that you are not your thoughts.
And the thoughts in your head are not always your friend!
We get stuck obsessing about past events, dramatizing future events or making one minor incident mean something really terrible.
But most of the time, none of that stuff is even true! We’re making up stories and jumping to wildly illogical conclusions. To fix it, you just need to take a step back and give yourself some perspective.
So the next time you find yourself rushing down the Feel Terrible Highway, it’s time to take back control! Here are 7 different ways you can pump the breaks and start feeling better right away.
How To Stop A Negative Spiral
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #1:
Focus On The Facts
Negative thought spirals often occur when we take one situation and relate it to previous experiences in our life. That’s when we end up with thoughts like “This always happens to me”, “I can’t ever do _____ right”.
When your mind starts getting dramatic or catastrophizing, dial it back and focus in on what’s actually happened, not on those prior events. Recognize the trigger as an isolated event, not as part of a life-long campaign to humiliate or hurt you!
A rude remark doesn’t mean you’re getting fired or that your girlfriend is breaking up with you.
Remind yourself that those definitive thought patterns (with words like “never” or “always”) are rarely ever empirically true. Try to look for the evidence to the contrary.
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #2:
Change The Scenery
When your mind and heart starts racing, sometimes the best thing to do is to immediately change locations. If you’re at home, go for a walk. If you’re at your desk, get up and move to the lunch room. If it’s a really big upset, maybe book a weekend away if you can!
A physical shift is a great trigger for your brain to shift into the new experience. The idea is to put an end to the spiral before it really gets out of hand and a change in scenery often brings a welcome change in perspective. Plus it’s a great reminder that you’re ultimately in control and can manage the situation.
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #3:
The negative thought spiral can also have a negative physical effect! If you feel your heart racing or your breathing becomes shallow, take a second to snap back into your body.
Taking three (or more!) deep belly breaths will help slow down your heart rate and draw you back into the present moment. Oxygenation of the brain has been show to reduce anxiety levels and lower blood pressure. Even a short period of deep breathing will be beneficial but if you can, consider spending a little extra time in full meditation.
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #4:
Move Your Body
Another way to grab control of a spiralling mind is to get your body moving! The mind and body are intimately connected; it’s possible to use one to shift the other one.
So go for a long run, lift extra heavy or go for a swim. Physical activity feels good and helps to burn off any lingering stress. Going extra hard with the workouts will automatically shift your attention away from what’s going on inside you because you’ll be so focused on what your body is actually doing. It’s a great way to get grounded in the present moment.
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #5:
Journal It Out
Sometimes the best thing to do is to let all that negative spiral energy out of you. Hand-writing your feelings is one of the most liberating activities you can do for your mental health. Journalling offers us a way to make sense of the internal mental chaos.
Seeing your thoughts on paper gives them some distance and perspective. Plus the act of hand-writing down your thoughts is a very physical way to symbolize them leaving your body!
So try it out! Write it all down until you shift into a more relaxed or calm mental space. (For bonus points, try burning the paper at the end!)
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #6:
Use An Affirmation
Instead of letting the negative thoughts win, try swapping them out for ones that will actually make you feel better. Affirmations can feel strange or fake at first but the whole point of using them is to retrain your brain to be more positive.
If you’re in a particularly stressed time, thinking those good thoughts will no doubt feel like an impossible task! But just like working out, it gets easier the more you practice it.
So find a feel-good phrase you can focus on: “Right now everything is okay”, “I forgive myself” or “I surrender” are all excellent choices. But feel free to adapt them or create your own affirmation that feels right to you. Then when you notice the negative thoughts rising again, turn to your mantra to calm the process down.
Negative Spiral Coping Remedy #7:
Make Yourself Feel Safe
Negative spirals are often the result of us feeling unsafe. When we feel attacked, we go into fight or flight mode. That’s why our bodies feel so threatened by things that are nowhere near life or death situations in reality!
When you feel mentally stuck in negativity, think about what you can do to feel safe again.Think of each of your senses: touch, taste, smell, feel, hear.
Maybe it would feel good to light a scented candle, drink a special tea or go for a long walk. Maybe it would feel wonderful to wrap yourself up tightly in a blanket or to re-read a favorite book. Maybe it would feel amazing to take a candlelit bath or to cuddle with your dog.
The whole point is to make yourself feel good, so go for what inspires you! And please don’t be tempted to “punish” yourself for feeling bad or making a mistake. The punishment just keeps you stuck in that negative mindset for longer than necessary.
Practicing extreme self-care is never a bad idea! You deserve happiness so become an advocate for your own happiness and don’t feel guilt about pursuing it.
You don’t ever have to feel like you’re out of control of your thoughts! With some loving care and practice, you can regain control and be on your way to feeling happier and healthier.
I hope this post serves you. Much ????