May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Last week on the blog I wanted to check in and see how people are doing and remind you that what we’re going through right now is unique. So prioritizing your mental and physical well-being these days will probably look different than what it used to be. It’s always a good idea to check in with yourself. I’m obviously not a mental health expert, but as you might guess, I often inadvertently end up talking with clients and people about their mental health—whether it’s about their struggles with motivation, low self-confidence, lack of focus, or just problems and stress that they’re dealing with in life.
This week I wanted to talk about negative/downward spirals because I think we’ve most likely all experienced them at one point or another and will likely experience them again (especially during this time). Downward spirals are not to be confused with being scrupulous or critical. It’s when your negative thoughts and emotions snowball, eventually overwhelming you with negativity until all you see is failure. Sound familiar?
Trust that I write from experience when I say that downward spirals are almost always unproductive and even if you know it’s unproductive, it’s something that’s hard to stop. One small thing going wrong can easily set off your thoughts and subsequently ruin the rest of your day. It sucks.
The first and easiest thing you can do that takes no work at all, is simply to recognize that you’re in a negative spiral. And when you’ve done that, try not to brush it off or ignore it, (which is the reaction that many of us have). Because more often than not, the negativity only increases until it’s out of your control. But what you CAN control is where to focus your attention and energy. That’s key.
Usually when I get into a downward spiral like this, I have a bad habit of trying to ignore or brush off the negativity. Realistically, I’m in a bad mood for the rest of the day and maybe end up eating some junk—because who cares—snap at people who only mean well, etc. Instead of doing that, here are some better approaches:
- Take a pause. Turn off your phone, laptop, TV. (Especially if it’s the source of what’s setting you off; even if it’s not the cause, media can sometimes feed negativity.) Focus your attention on breathing for a while, disconnect from everything else.
- Refresh your perspective. We all tend to lose the bigger picture when we’re overwhelmed.
- Think about what action you can take to fix the problem. If the negativity is coming from a problem that’s solvable, figure out what you can do about it and put your energy into fixing it. (Be productive with your energy.)
- OR find the positives. A simple example might be that someone cancelled on you. Don’t obsess over how much that pisses you off or how your night is ruined. See it as: Now you have time to take a bath and enjoy your night in peace.
I read a quote once that said, “I am not my emotions.” It perfectly applies in this situation. Because you don’t have to be miserable and negative. Technically, you can choose not to be. You can still feel these emotions, but you don’t have to be them. It’s hard to see the light, but show yourself some compassion. We all deserve it.