Today we are talking about negativity spirals and what to do about them. Do you ever find yourself stuck in a situation where your energy and motivation tank completely and you start to question everything about what you’re doing with your life? When you know there’s so much stuff that you should be doing, but you just can’t seem to make yourself do it, and you wonder what the point of even bothering with it is?
How negativity spirals start
I’ve recently had a horrible run with that kind of thinking, a rather unpleasant existential crisis, if you want to call it that. A couple of weeks ago my kids were away and I had all this time to “get stuff done” and I had so much on my plate that I wanted to plow through, but I just couldn’t motivate myself to do any of it. I spent most of the week browsing Pinterest, reading the new James Rollins novel, and watching far too much TV while eating far too much ice cream. And I was getting more and more annoyed with myself but I just could NOT get myself to actually DO anything. It was a lack of motivation and energy, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a very long time.
The problem is that, with September on the horizon (which is kind of like the new year for those of us with children), I was concentrating too much on all the stuff I hadn’t gotten done – like finishing my second book, launching my course, and getting a big article done for another site. And it spiralled; I was thinking about all the things I should have done over the summer but didn’t, which made me think of all the things that I should have achieved by now with Vibe Shifting, but haven’t. Which, in turn, made me start thinking of past business ventures that should have succeeded but didn’t. Which then made me start despairing about how I should be looking for a day job, but have no idea where to even start because all my technical skills are now considered obsolete after two years as a stay-at-home mother.
Existential crises really suck
Do you see how these negative thought processes work? Do you see how the spiral starts? How dwelling on one negative thought almost magnetically draws more negative thoughts to itself? How the whole process picks up speed and gets stronger with time? Like a great big snowball, focusing on a negative thought rolls that thought over and over in your head, and packs more and more negative thoughts around that kernel, getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger, faster and faster, the longer you focus on it.
And the problem is that once you get sucked into this kind of negativity spiral, it can be really, really hard to pull yourself out of it. As I said, it gets stronger the longer you stay in it. And because your thoughts affect your emotions, this is a one-way ticket to Depression-ville and Anxiety City. You can’t be in a positive mental place when you are thinking those kinds of thoughts, and worse, once the negativity takes root in your mind, it affects your perception, making it extremely difficult for you to even see anything that isn’t likewise negative.
Putting an end to negativity spirals
Obviously, putting an end to negativity spirals before they start picking up speed is really kind of important. So I’ve got four strategies to help you out with that:
1. Drop the “should”s
I think should is one of those words that we’d all be better off dropping from our vocabularies. Should is an extremely judgemental word – by its very nature it says that you’re not good enough. That you haven’t measured up to some kind of standard. But who gets to decide what those standards are? An awful lot of the “should”s we place on ourselves are really arbitrary; who says we should have something done in a particular time frame, or in a certain way, or only by following a particular path? Why should anyone else – individual or society – get to have that kind of power over your life?
So when you catch yourself using “should”, either out loud or in the silence of your own mind, try replacing it with something like “could”. In other words, “I should get this article done today” becomes “I could get this article done today”. It may seem like a minor shift, but there’s an energy attached to the meaning behind those words, and even a small shift like that can have a big impact.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
This is a big one. And we’re all guilty of doing it – we all compare ourselves to other people. We see how other people are managing to do what we are currently only dreaming of and we can’t, for the life of us, figure out how to get from here to there. So we assume there must be something wrong with us, or that we somehow lack the ability to make it happen. But the far more likely reality is simply that those others are further ahead in their journey than we are. We’re comparing our chapter 2 to their chapter 20, or comparing our blooper reel to their highlight reel. And that’s just not a fair comparison.
So don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Focus instead on your own journey, and on taking the small, really unglamorous steps that are creating the foundation of what it is you want to build.
3. Let the past go.
We spend so much of our time beating ourselves up over things that have happened in the past. But to what end? No amount of self-recrimination is going to change what happened or what didn’t happen. We cannot change the past, and anything we plan for the future is hypothetical. The only moment over which we have any control at all is what happens in the now. Our power lies in the present moment; always and only.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for peace of mind, so do your best to practice it whenever you can. Your ability to remain grounded in the present will become stronger the more you do it.
4. Use your vibe shifters
You do have a go-to list of things that help to snap you out of the occasional funk, right? Right? If not, make one. Now. Hit the iTunes and create a playlist of upbeat songs that always cheer you up… and if you can’t think of any, I’ve got a couple of playlists on my YouTube channel that can get you started. Create a Pinterest board of inspirational quotes that remind you of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish in life – quotes that motivate you to get yourself back on track. Find a hobby that allows you to de-stress and focus on something creative instead of the distressing thoughts flooding through your mind – painting, reading, dance, gardening, whatever – just find something and start doing it. Create a mantra that you can repeat to yourself to regain your balance when you start feeling off-kilter. Do whatever you need to do to shift yourself out of that bad-feeling mind-space and into something better.
Summing it up
Getting stuck in a negative mindset is the first stop in a negativity spiral that leads to frustration, depression and anxiety. The longer you stay in that kind of mindset, the stronger it gets and the harder it is for you to break free of it. So train yourself to be aware of where your thoughts are going, and when you find yourself drifting into existential crisis mode, use these four strategies to help pull yourself out: drop the “should”s; don’t compare yourself to others; let the past go; and, use your vibe shifters. These strategies will help you put a stop to those nasty negativity spirals before they really start to pick up speed.