Coping Strategies for Getting Out of an Anxiety Spiral

May 31, 2024 | Main Blog | 0 comments

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by anxious thoughts that your mind starts to shut down, you end up scrolling through mindless videos on your phone, binge-eating, and ignoring your problems? Before you know it, the whole day has passed, and you’ve found yourself spiraling into a dark place in your mind.

Anxiety is a crippling feeling that I know incredibly well. At times, it has stopped me from chasing after my dreams, from achieving my full potential.

Over the years, I’ve learned to accept that this feeling of anxiety is very normal. In fact, a certain level of anxiety is a good thing, because being anxious means that you have something you care deeply about. There is no shame in finding yourself in the midst of an anxiety spiral – what’s important is to find the right tools that can help you get out of that spiral.

This month is Anxiety Awareness Month, a time when the topic of anxiety is back in the limelight. It seems like a fitting time to also think about the strategies to cope with a feeling that all of us have and will experience.

Here are five tips that have helped me get out of an anxiety spiral, and I hope they can help you too.

Tip 1: Ask yourself, what is the smallest action you could take here?

All too often, the source of our anxiety comes from the feeling of being overwhelmed by the challenge that lies ahead, and not knowing where to start.

Let’s take on the monster bit by bit.

Maybe you’re feeling anxious over your career. You yearn for a career change, but you’re also scared of trying something new. Ask yourself – what are the steps I need to take here? A small first step could be to simply reach out to a friend or a friend of a friend who has made a similar career change and ask them for some advice.

Maybe you’re anxious over your finances. A simple first step could be to download a budgeting app that can automatically calculate where your expenses are going.

By breaking your problem down into smaller, actionable sub-tasks that you can comfortably achieve in a short period of time, you are making progress in slaughtering your monster.

Tip 2: Disconnect from your phone

We’ve all been there – doomscrolling on TikTok or Instagram for hours on end. Consuming content on our phones can numb our anxiety for a while, but the anxiety doesn’t simply go away. It builds and worsens the longer we hold off addressing it.

Put down your phone, walk away from it and force yourself to do something else. Here are a few things you could try:

  • Go for a walk and take in your surroundings.
  • Close your eyes and listen to some meditative music.
  • Focus on deep breathing for 10 minutes
  • Attend a high-intensity exercise class.
  • Take a cold shower.

Unplugging from the quick dopamine hits that technology constantly gives us will help to quiet and clear your mind.

Sometimes, this is all you need to turn down the volume of your anxiety in your head.

Tip 3: Do the task you’re anxious about for just five minutes.

Seriously, just five minutes is enough. Anyone can spend five minutes working on a complicated problem.

Often, our anxiety is highest at the time when we haven’t started the task, and we’re panicking over how difficult it can be to tackle. Doing it for five minutes will make you realize that the world hasn’t ended and that hey, this isn’t so hard after all!

Anxiety is a fear that exists purely in your mind. You fear how difficult it is to tackle your problem, but five minutes is often enough to remind you that facing what you fear won’t destroy you.

Once five minutes is up, give yourself a pat on your back. If you’re feeling okay, keep going. Maybe give yourself another fifteen minutes to work on your challenge. If you’re not feeling good, that’s okay too. Allow yourself to take a break – you’ve earned it.

Tip 4: Eat something healthy and nutritious.

Don’t overlook your diet when you’re feeling low.

Science has shown that our gut health has a crucial impact on our mental health. When we’re anxious, we often feel the urge to binge eat unhealthy foods in an effort to raise our dopamine levels. But snacks and processed foods hurt our gut health, which in turn worsens our mood and overall mental health.

If you’re feeling anxious, try to eat foods that are high in fiber such as bananas, nuts or whole grains, which will improve your gut bacteria and in turn improve your mood.

If you’re looking for a sweet drink, try a probiotic drink like Yakult or something richer like kefir. These drinks taste great but will also help to improve your gut bacteria.

If you’re craving a sugary snack, why not have some berries instead? Berries are a great source of nutrients for gut health, and antioxidants in berries have been shown to help relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.

If you’re in the mood for something fatty, swap out your fast food for fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are incredibly effective in improving gut health.

Tip 5: Remember that it’s okay to feel like this.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve beaten myself up about being in an anxiety spiral, only for my negative self-talk to worsen my anxiety.

Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel like this.

For many of us, the consistency line of productivity that productivity experts tell you about simply doesn’t exist. We will have days when we feel low, when our anxiety causes our bodies to shut down.

And when that happens, tell yourself that it’s okay to feel like this. This feeling is temporary, and it will go away.

I have found myself at the bottom of the dark hole that is my anxiety so many times, and each time, I’ve reminded myself that there is an end to this feeling.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel – for some of us, it’s just a little further away. Eventually, you’ll find the steps that work for you to get out of this dark place, and when that happens, you’ll no longer be trapped by the anxieties that have paralyzed you in the past.

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