We live in a society that craves control. We’re consciously conditioned to seek out the security that control would supply. Meanwhile, full control is an illusion. These realities surely play a role in the rising rates of anxiety disorders. Left unchecked, anxiety will increase the perception that you’ve lost control. If anything, you’ll view anxiety as being in control. That’s when the thought spiral can kick in.
In simple terms, you feel anxious about a given situation. Whether the threat is real or perceived, it causes you to experience symptoms. The presence of those symptoms provokes a new anxious response and the cycle continues. Fortunately, this scenario can be halted.
How Does an Anxiety Spiral Get Started?
An anxiety spiral is frequently rooted in a clear and present problem. It has you feeling concerned, worried, or fearful. Your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated and you experience some obvious sensations, e.g. sweating, increased heart rate, etc. The anxious mind associates these sensations with danger and can now convert thoughts into physical reactions.
In other words, you get stuck in a state of high arousal and your body can no longer differentiate between safety and risk. This inability to self-regulate becomes an actual trigger and thus, anxiety spirals become the norm.
How to Stop Anxiety Thoughts From Spiraling Out Of Control
Let’s first clarify that anxiety is a diagnosable disorder. If it is spiraling in your life, it is highly suggested that you make contact with an experienced therapist. In the meantime, however, there are some proven self-help steps you can take, e.g.
Rather than trying to talk yourself out of the spiral, what you may really need is a sense of grounding. You can mindfully place yourself in the present moment and location via techniques like:
- Deep breathing
- Movement (preferably outdoors)
- Touching something cold or splashing your face with cold water
- Perform a physical task (exercise, household chores, etc.)
- Activate your sense by naming aloud at least one thing in your vicinity that you can see, smell, touch, feel, and taste
Grounding techniques can help your body calm itself. Next, you shift to recalibrating your thoughts.
- Name your emotions: Don’t try to suppress anxious thoughts. Instead, notice and name them from a place of detachment. Talk about yourself in the third person.
- Feel what you need to feel: There’s no need to transition right away into fixer mode. Accept your emotions as you identify and name them.
- Recognize the fear as thoughts: Anxiety is a good liar. If you fact-check what it is telling you, you’ll recognize that most of the thoughts do not reflect reality. This makes the thoughts far less frightening.
- Replace anxiety’s lies with your positive truths: It is liberating to identify anxious thoughts as having no factual foundation. It frees the way for you to create new cycles that emphasize the positive side of things.
- Recognize where, when, and how you are safe: Never take for granted when you feel safe and secure. Savor it and work to find ways to stay that way. Remember these moments whenever you sense an anxiety spiral starting.
Reminder: I’m Here to Help
Treating anxiety is not a solo act. You’ll need support and there’s nothing like weekly sessions with a skilled counselor. Together, we’ll explore the underlying, root causes of your anxious spirals. We’ll identify counterproductive patterns and work to replace them with healthy new approaches.
You do not have to surrender to anxiety or its spirals. Help and support are available and they’re only a phone call away. To get the ball rolling, let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation for anxiety therapy.