What is an Emotional and Overthinking “Spiral?”
What does the word “spiral” make you think about? Do you think of something spinning like a tornado? Perhaps you imagine a fixed point getting bigger and bigger as it goes around in a circle. Why does the image of a spiral work well when describing the intense feelings leading up to a panic attack or becoming overwhelmed with thoughts?
Spirals keep going until stopped. Like a spinning top, our thoughts can go in circles if we allow them to. Continuously going in circles will always steer us toward the same conclusions and assumptions. The more we overthink, the easier it will be to end up in a spiral of overwhelming emotions — one negative thought triggers an emotional response that then triggers other negative thoughts.
What do we do when faced with a difficult situation that may trigger us? How do we stop a potential spiral from getting out of control?
Methods to Gain Control
While in the midst of a possible spiral, it’s important to know how to remain in control. Because we can spiral into overthinking at any time of the day while doing any activity, having access to personal resources is key. What can we do anywhere at any time? What are our immediate options?
Mindfulness is the skill of living in the present moment. Negative thoughts and emotions that spiral often do so because our minds wander. Training our minds to navigate through the present moment helps us to focus on what is happening now.
Mindful breathing, eating, and walking teaches us to center our attention to what our body is doing. Counting our breaths, paying attention to how our food taste and how we are chewing, and being aware of our steps as we walk reprograms our awareness away from spiraling thoughts.
Affirmations are a helpful tool to change and shift thought patterns. Convincing ourselves that we are the opposite of our negative thoughts can transform how we perceive recurring negative thoughts even when triggered. When we feel our minds moving into an uncomfortable place, we can use affirmations to switch our thoughts from negative to workable. A workable thought helps us to know our next steps when faced with a challenge.
Here are some affirmations for self-control:
- My thoughts are under my control.
- I am in control of my words.
- I have self-control.
- I am always calm.
Staying stationed in one place mentally or physically for too long can influence overthinking. Self-criticism can impact negative thoughts of failure. To get out of a possible spiral related to movement and positioning is to actually move. Go on a walk. Get some fresh air. Go outside.
Talking to Someone You Trust
Talking to a trusted person can help recenter our emotions and perspective. While spiraling, it’s easy to give in to negative thoughts mistaking them as truths. Talking to someone we trust can remind us of our truths, beliefs, and reality. If unable to balance our thoughts ourselves, asking a friend, therapist, family member, or partner can bring us back into a more stable mental state.
Why Is It Important to Remain in Control?
Control is what keeps us in power. Without our awareness of that control and power, falling into an emotional spiral can occur often. What we allow to sway our thinking is in our hands. We shape our own perceptions and perspective and choose whether something or someone can negatively affect us.
Reminder: We are not our thoughts.
The more we actualize our control, the less likely we will spiral into patterns of overthinking. We can ask ourselves if the thoughts we are experiencing are true and if they are helpful to us. If they are not, how can we change them?
End Thoughts and Next Steps
If you find yourself spiraling into an uncomfortable place mentally don’t be afraid to interrupt and disturb the process of negative thinking. Focus on gaining control and using the resources that are available to you. Ask yourself what your next steps are once triggered. You can always gain and refocus your control.
Nina is a Latina from Brooklyn, NY who struggles with depression and anxiety. She finds refuge and healing through her writing since she graduated from college in 2016. Nina writes to spread awareness and hope to those who struggle with their mental health silently. She also strives to motivate and encourage self-acceptance. She enjoys creating creative and uplifting content on her blog SparklyWarTanks.com where she shares her experiences, notes, poems, quotes, and articles