It can seem impossible to escape when your mind begins to spiral downward into a vortex of negative thoughts. Negative thinking patterns tend to feed on themselves, growing stronger with each passing second. But even if you feel like you’ve fallen into an endless pit of despair, there is a way out.
These negative thought spirals often creep up when you least expect them—when you’re feeling down or stressed, during an argument with someone you care about, or simply because of something that happens throughout the day.
Recognize the Signs of a Negative Thought Spiral
The first step in managing a negative thought spiral is recognizing that it is happening in the first place. If you feel like you’re in a bad mood, take a step back and assess what’s going on in your head. If you find yourself catastrophizing events or have obsessive and untruthful thoughts, you may be starting a negative thought spiral.
Write Down Your Accomplishments
The next step is to write down the things you’re proud of or are grateful for. You can also look back on your accomplishments from the past and remind yourself that the future is not set in stone. No matter what’s happening in the present, there’s always a way out. You’ve overcome challenges before and you can do it again. If you find it difficult to come up with positive things to write, try listing your strengths or positive personality traits. Think about the skills and abilities that set you apart from others and that you value about yourself.
Be Kind to Yourself
When you’re falling into a negative thought spiral, it can be hard to be kind to yourself. You might be beating yourself up for the mistakes you’ve made in the past or for not having achieved the goals you set for yourself. But being hard on yourself will only make your negative thought spiral worse. Instead, be gentle with yourself and acknowledge that you’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and you’re allowed to regret things you’ve done in the past. What you learn from it and what you do moving forward matters. No one is perfect, and the sooner you accept that you are human and make mistakes, the sooner you can stop berating yourself for the things you wish you could go back and change.
Talk to Someone You Trust
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts, talking to a friend or loved one can be helpful. If you’re struggling with a negative thought spiral, talking to a friend can help. They can help you regain perspective and realize if your thoughts are irrational. You don’t have to tell them you’re experiencing a negative thought spiral. All you have to do is open up about what’s going on in your life. It might be helpful to create a list of topics to discuss beforehand. That way, when you feel yourself getting wrapped up in negative thoughts, you can simply skim the list and pick out a topic to go off on.
Negative thought spirals can be scary, especially if you are in the middle of one and don’t know how to get out of it. But they don’t have to last forever. It would be best to acknowledge that you’re in a negative thought spiral and work to break it. Remember that you are not your thoughts, and you have the power to act on your own behalf!