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?
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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.
Dream. Believe. Achieve.
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Was just thinking of this very topic when I tuned in! Yet another answered question from the universe. The thing is, many of us grew up in a very negative environment and this mode of thinking was instilled in us by family for the purpose of scaring us from a very young age, so we cannot help it. Kind of sad. I know you will say we can change that, but it takes a while to change a mindset and there is a lot of wobble in the process.
Everything takes time and I have no idea how these instant life stuff came into being nowadays. If you are taking “too long: by someone else’s standards, or have not reached somewhere by a certain age, give up and move along to something else. This is heartbreaking, but that is how people operate. This is sad as well. But, in terms of the universe, there are no standards. There is no “taking too long” . It is important to hang out with those who are of an open mind and do not judge. I know they are out there, this small group who does not care about the good opinion of others and does not live life under the standards of others.
Making peace with where you are is also a tough one. Even thinking of it logically by knowing that the vibration was not in sync at the time and growth was needed helps only for a moment and then there is wobble between feeling bad and being okay for now because we are appreciative of things.
You’ve just reminded me of a post I need to write about navigating the emotional ladder. Yes, I have said you can change your old programming, and I absolutely stand by that. You CAN change that programming. But when you’re dealing with something that carries a lot of emotional baggage, changing your thought habits around the situation is not that easy. In many cases, especially with people who have an intellectual understanding of these processes, there’s a desire to get from a really negative point of view to a really positive point of view, and it’s just too big of a jump. You can’t do it — not in one go. It has to be a gradual process because your subconscious mind is so used to thinking in a certain way, that a big change is seen as dangerous and will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to shift away from those familiar patterns.
Yes, surrounding yourself with open-minded people who think the way you do, and who are trying to make changes and achieve things in their own lives will definitely help. It’s part of creating a tribe, or support network… you support each other when your motivation falters and celebrate each other’s successes. Surrounding yourself with awesome people will encourage you to let your own awesomeness shine through. 🙂
You say to do whatever you need to do to get out of the spiral. This is great advice. I say, do whatever works for you, whether it’s singing or dancing or saying some affirmation… reading some book, or playing with your kids.
For me, I have a mantra that I just stop and repeat to myself. The mantra is: “I accept myself”. Sometimes I add on ” entirely and completely” at the end, just for good measure! So I stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes if needed, and I repeat this until I come to that place of accepting myself entirely and completely. From there I can climb up on out of that spiral and start moving forward again!
Eric D. Greene recently posted…My Journey to Sobriety
Hello Eric, welcome to Vibe Shifting, and thanks so much for sharing your mantra — that’s a great one! I’m a big fan of using mantras and affirmations to help with shifting thought habits that keep us stuck in places we’d rather not be. And you are indeed right — what works for one person may not work for another, and what works in one situation may not work in a different one. It’s a matter of finding different techniques and processes to add to our personal toolboxes as we go along. 🙂