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  • Alainnah Knight

Do We Have Enough Data to Freak Out? A Guide To Stopping A Thought Spiral

A thought spiral is a pattern of repetitive, intrusive, and often negative thoughts that loop in your mind without resolution. Often times we are sending our body into a state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn just from our thoughts, thoughts that we most of the time don't even have enough data to react to! So let's spend some time diving a little deeper into what a thought spiral is and how different ways to explore stopping a thought spiral!


What Is A Thought Spiral?

A thought spiral can be getting stuck in a cycle of overthinking or dwelling on a particular idea, problem, or emotion. Thought spirals can vary in intensity and duration, but they typically involve a sense of being unable to escape from a loop of thoughts.


For example, if you make a mistake at work, you might start thinking about it over and over again, replaying the situation in your mind, imagining worst-case scenarios, and maybe dwelling on feelings of guilt or inadequacy. These thoughts can become all-consuming, making it difficult to focus on anything else or find a solution to the problem.


Thought spirals can be triggered by various factors such as stress, uncertainty, past traumas, or anxiety and depression. While it's normal to have occasional bouts of overthinking, persistent thought spirals can have a significant impact on your mental well-being and daily functioning!


Recognizing when you're caught in a thought spiral and learning how to interrupt the data or redirect these patterns is important for maintaining a holistic well-being. While these steps may not be a "fix all" of "magic fix," with practice and repetition we begin to build safety in this process and allow our mind and body to take a different pathway than our typical spiraling pathway.


How To Stop A Thought Spiral


Recognize The Spiral

Awareness is the first step in stopping a thought spiral, but this will take practice! Start by acknowledging when you're starting to spiral into negative or unproductive thoughts. Our system will resist acknowledging these thoughts as a thought spiral, as your system will feel like it is in a true state of danger, but we get to challenge this state of "flight or flight." Ask yourself, "do I have enough data to freak out about this?"


Pause and Breathe

Take a moment to pause whatever you're doing. Close your eyes if possible. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. This helps calm your nervous system and brings you back to the present moment.


Ask Yourself If You Have Enough Data To Freak Out

Instead of trying to suppress or ignore your thoughts, acknowledge them without judgment. Understand that it's normal to have these thoughts but they don't define you. Ask yourself what data you have to support these thoughts, if any! Examine the validity of your thoughts. Are they based on facts or assumptions? Challenge irrational beliefs by asking yourself evidence-based questions like "Is there proof for this thought?" or "What evidence contradicts this belief?"


Shift Your Focus

After acknowledging your thoughts, shift your focus from negativity to gratitude. List things you're thankful for or moments that brought you joy. This helps in changing your perspective and breaking the cycle of negative thinking.


Ground Yourself

Grounding techniques help bring your focus back to the present moment. You can:

  • Name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

  • Use sensory objects like a stress ball or a textured object to bring your attention back to your senses.

  • Engage in a mindful breathing practice


Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself, the last thing you need in a thought spiral is to shame yourself even further into it. Understand that everyone experiences challenging thoughts and emotions. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.


Lastly,

It is important that we give ourselves SO much compassion and grace. Know that these steps may not be a "magic fix" the first time that you try them, give yourself some compassion! Stopping a thought spiral is a skill that must be built, allow yourself the time and space to build this skill.

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