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3 Ways to Stop the Spiral

“I’ve messed up again. What’s the point?”, you say as you reach for the ice cream (or wine, or chocolate, or third doughnut).

The next thing you know, you’re sure that you just can’t eat healthy, exercise, or take good care of yourself. There’s no time, your job is too stressful, your family needs so much, things are too hard. You begin to believe that other people have something you don't have. It’s what I call “down the rabbit hole”. Like Alice in Wonderland, you fall down the rabbit hole and enter a dark, confusing, and incomprehensible world. One negative thing happens, and it starts a barrage of negative feelings and you're in a full on downward spiral. This can happen when we’re trying to start a new habit, or transition to a place that we know is healthier but involves a lot of change. You’ve been substituting fruit for sugary sweets and then someone brings a big cake to work. You eat one piece. Then berate yourself as you help yourself to another small slice. That becomes another. Guilty, shame eating so badly that you don’t even take the time to enjoy the experience. Gobbling it down so fast before anyone sees. The spiral is triggered and then you follow the cake with a soft drink instead of water. You’ve already blown it and now you can’t seem to get back. The same negative thought spiral can also happen when other things in life just don’t seem to be going in the right direction. A co-worker yells at you, your child is angry about something, your spouse doesn’t agree with an idea that is important to you. Suddenly the whole world feels unfriendly, and you can’t seem to find your positive momentum.

When this happens, stop for a moment and notice. Say to yourself or even out loud, “I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole”. Find some compassion for yourself in this moment. Here are some ideas for slowing the emotional momentum of the rabbit hole:

1. Write it out

Research has shown that writing helps us process emotions. No one is judging this writing and grammar doesn’t matter. Just write for the sake of writing.

2. Get moving. These negative moods can make you want to zone out on the sofa with your wine and Netflix, but we know that exercise (of any kind!) can actually lift your mood. Go for a walk, dance it out, go to an exercise class or pull up an exercise video.

3. Music is magic. Turn on your favorite music to help brighten the mood. You could even have a “life is good” playlist ready for when these moments hit. I have a playlist that has songs that put a smile on my face whenever I hear them, and it really is helpful!

Notice when you’ve gone down the rabbit hole and everything seems worse than it really is. See if you can use these tools to find some perspective. Share your experiences in the comments or message me. I love to hear your stories.

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