We all know the situation quite well.
It’s been a long day and you’re finally tucked back into bed.
You’ve done great work and you should be proud of yourself.
You deserve a good night’s rest.
And just as you close your eyes, it happens…
A little voice whispers, “Hey, do you think Susan was offended because of that thing you said earlier?”
Or it says, “Remember when your manager avoided eye contact with you today? Do you think that means that he’s getting ready to fire you?”
Just like that, your brain kicks into maximum overdrive.
The need for sleep has disappeared and you are wide awake.
An anxiety spiral has begun.
Well, today I wanted to talk about how to stop an anxiety spiral (also known as catastrophic thinking).
Having An Anxiety Spiral Sucks!
At the height of my anxiety issues a few years back, I was constantly dealing with catastrophic thinking.
- “I didn’t reply to that text fast enough. My friend is going to think that I hate her.”
- “I didn’t answer enough questions in class. My teacher is going to think I’m incompetent.”
- “I’ve not been on a date in a while. My friends are going to think that I’m a loser.”
From even the tiniest of problems, I could create a huge, scary scenario that could keep me awake for hours and completely ruin even the best of days.
And even though I knew that the anxiety spiral was irrational, it didn’t stop it from happening.
So in this blog post, I’m going to share with you a few tips for how to overcome your catastrophic thinking and stop an anxiety spiral dead in it’s tracks!
1) Identify Your Anxiety Spiral
It sounds straightforward enough but the first thing you need to do is recognize what's happening.
When the anxiety spiral starts, you might not catch what’s happening straightaway.
After all, the thoughts can quickly become all consuming.
But, with time and practise, you’ll be able to identify when you’re spiralling and that is the first step.
Because once you recognize the problem, then you can start to fix it.
It doesn’t sound like much, but the very act of recognising when you’re falling into catastrophic thinking is a huge accomplishment and the start of returning your power to you.
2) What Caused The Anxiety Spiral?
For every thought and feeling that we have, there is an event that triggers it.
You might feel hungry because you passed by a bakery and smelled the fresh bread.
Or you could feel motivated because you just heard an inspiring speech.
Well, anxiety works the same way too!
So, the next thing you need to do is analyse what caused the spiral.
And not just the event or thought that has happened before the spiral, but the meaning we assigned to it.
How We Give Our Thoughts Meaning
You see, we all give our thoughts meaning.
If you ever just sit and observe your thoughts, you’ll notice that most of them pop in and out of your mind and most mean absolutely nothing.
But sometimes we assign a meaning to certain thoughts e.g. positive or negative.
And it’s this meaning that can cause you to catapult yourself into catastrophic thinking.
Ultimately, we all apply our own meaning to things that happen.
So if you can separate the event from its meaning, then you have the opportunity to respond rather than react.
Now, it’s probably going to take some time and practise to separate an event or thought from what it means to you.
So, I highly recommend getting some practise in mindfulness – simply observing your thoughts from a neutral perspective.
Being able to observe your thoughts without giving them a meaning will be key to the next step.
3) Challenge Your Thoughts
You can’t rationalise your way out of anxiety.
You have to treat it like a siege and slowly chip away at it.
And you can do this by challenging your thoughts.
Once you know, what has caused you to go down this spiral, you can then challenge the thoughts.
You have to treat your mind and your catastrophic thinking as if it is a criminal that the police are interrogating.
And you want to try and poke as many holes in its alibi and its backstory as possible because you need to get to the truth of the situation.
And the funny thing is, once you start to challenge these thoughts from a neutral perspective (as per the previous step), you might even start to see how silly some of these thoughts actually are.
Anxiety: “You didn’t respond to Tim’s text message fast enough earlier today. Aren’t you worried that he’s going to think you’re a terrible friend?”
You: “Well, I was driving at the time and I spoke to Tim when I saw him at work.”
Anxiety: “Yeah, but remember when you said ‘Good morning’ to him and he didn’t reply as quickly as he normally does. Isn’t it obvious that he’s angry with you and doesn’t want to be friends any more?”
You: “There are any number of reasons why that could have happened. He was probably just tired.”
Anxiety: “Well, you’re stupid then. It’s obiosuly all your fault.”
You: “Seems like a stretch, but whatever.”
Grab Some Outside Help
If you want to speed up this process of challenging your catastrophic thinking, then getting some outside help might be exactly what you need.
You could confide in a friend, share your thoughts and ask him or her to challenge them from an outside perspective.
Or, you could hire a counsellor or therapist to help work through them.
In fact, this is exactly what I did and my therapist was able to help me eliminate my anxiety spiralling just by asking challenging questions about the thoughts that would occur to me.
It’s definitely an option worth pursuing and I highly recommend it.
4) Self-Compassion Is The Key
The final thing that I'd recommend is self-compassion.
Give yourself a break.
Treat yourself like you are your own best friend.
You wouldn’t let anyone speak to your friends in the way that you let anxiety speak to you.
So, treat yourself with the same love and care that you would treat them.
Give yourself that kindness and love that you need to get through and conquer your anxiety.
So, how do you stop an anxiety spiral?
Well, there are 4 simple steps:
- Identify that you are spiralling;
- Identify what caused your spiral;
- Remember, you create the meaning of your thoughts
- Challenge your anxious thoughts
- Remember, you can get some help if you need
- Be compassionate towards yourself
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to eliminating catastrophic thinking and anxiety spiralling for good!
If you’re ready to:
- Take your life and confidence to the next level
- Achieve your goals faster than you ever thought was possible
- Finally overcome self-doubt and become the person you’ve always known you could become
Then Confidence Coaching is the way to do it!
So, if you’re ready to work together to crush your obstacles, 10x your confidence and live a life that you love, make sure you check out the Work With Me page and arrange a FREE Discovery Call today!
Or you can contact me directly on the LTUK Facebook Page!