No matter how much self-development work you’ve done, there will be moments when life feels especially tough. Yes, even folks who seem to have it all together can deal with anxiety. And sometimes, life just feel so big and difficult, that feelings of despair and rush over you. Then, suddenly, it’s as if you can’t think straight.
What’s happening is this: life is feeling so overwhelming that your brain wants to protect itself, so it shuts down. What I mean by this is it’s as if all common sense and logic leaves you. And rather than you being able to bounce back from a brief moment of feeling stressed, it can spiral into something larger because you’ve been pushed to the point of a survival mode.
This can be triggered by a fight with a partner, fumbling a work project, or not hitting a personal goal you set. Or, it can be the result of something that seems innocent triggering a PTSD response to past trauma. So, for example, an argument over whose turn it is to do the dishes can trigger a buried memory of being berated by a parent for being messy.
Rather than feel shamed about this, know you are simply a human being that having an all-too-human moment. That’s why it’s so important to stop and breathe. Because the most important thing about despair and anxiety is to not dwell on it more than a moment.
Here are nine ways to stop your spiral of anxiety and despair and work past the moment:
One – Recognize you’re experiencing a moment of anxiety and/or feelings of despair.
When you name how you’re feeling, it allows your logical mind to begin taking back your power. And when you allow yourself to actually feel your feelings, you’re typically able to move more quickly through the emotions. Because if you try to avoid them, you can get stuck in a spiral.
So, feel them however your body wants you to—cry, scream, cuss into a pillow—and then let them pass. Oh, and don’t sit with the anger that’s a byproduct of these feelings. That will just keep you stuck in that spiral!
Two – Turn to Comfort Entertainment
Yes, re-read a favorite book. Or watch a beloved TV show. No, I’m not talking about numbing yourself by binge watching or ignoring the world for days to read. Instead, watch a single episode or read a couple of chapters. And try to remember the feelings you had the first time enjoying this experience. Or turn to your imagination and plan a fantasy move to a favorite city using a website like MoversRun as this also allows you to access feel-good emotions.
Now that you’ve given your heart and soul a moment of positive emotion, return to your mind. With this clearer mind, see if there are ways to solve your current issue.
Three – Phone a Friend and ‘Fess Up
We all have our go-to people who love and accept us for who we are. So don’t be afraid to reach out to your support structure. While talking it out is usually the best way for me as an extrovert, I can also send a text or a quick Voxer message to a trusted person. While you never want to be that friend who always dumps on her friends, sometimes you just need a supportive person to listen.
Besides, talking things over with someone who genuinely cares about you can help soothe those feelings of despair. And a really good friend (or coach) will be honest with you and help you gain perspective on your situation.
If this feels too daunting, tell your pet how you’re feeling. They may not be able to talk back, but they sure can provide comfort in the form of snuggles.
Four – Move Your Body and Refocus Your Mind Away from Despair and Stress
Going for a walk is a great way to move anxiety through – and out – of your body. So, when you’re dealing with a moment of despair, lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement.
If it’s hard to shift you thoughts even while moving your body, tune into some upbeat music. Or listen to a podcast that has nothing to do with self-help or the situation that caused these feelings. Sometimes all we need is a good workout. And better thoughts to fill our heads.
Five – Take it to the Page by Writing in Your Journal
Even if you’ve never been a regular journal writer, spending two minutes free writing your day. Sometimes just writing our thoughts down quickly and without giving them a second glance helps our brains process our thoughts and feelings. And by writing it down, it allows the logical part of your brain to take back control.
When this happens, you can sometimes see that your imagination was making mountains out of mole hills. Or pinpoint when something went from doing ok to feeling out of control.
Six – Challenge Yourself to Try Something New
While new experiences can cause us to be anxious at first, successfully experiencing something new gives us confidence. And soothes those feelings of despair and anxiety. So, try something new.
Better yet, try something scary. When we practice doing small things that scare us, our body and mind gets used to the anxiety and then a success, building upon your courage. It’s why I’ve previously suggested creating a courage agreement with yourself. Because this allows you to see that not only do you not have to live in fear. Instead, it’s empowering to try new things on your own. And prove to yourself that you can do hard things.
Seven – Chat with a Trusted Mentor
Sometimes, the best person to turn to is someone that’s been there. So, turn to a trusted mentor, whether it’s a life coach, a former teacher or manager, or even a beloved aunt. When someone else is been in the exact same spot as you are, they can impart guidance on you that others can not.
Eight – Try Purposeful Distraction to Deal with a Moment of Despair
Sometimes, all it takes to take back your power is to purposefully distract yourself. No, I’m not talking about numbing. Or burying your head in the sand. This is a purposeful technique of re-directing your mind to a moment of perfection rather than despair. Yes, my darling, romanticize something in your life to lift you up from the heaviness of the moment.
This requires you to slow down, single-task as much as possible, and appreciate each little moment in its purity. Such as:
- Inhale the scent of your favorite perfume or lotion after freshly applying it to your skin
- Really feel the weight and smoothness of a favorite coffee cup in your hand. Better yet, inhale the aroma of a perfectly prepared cup.
- Admire a little sparrow on the branch outside your window
- Recall a favorite quote and write it down in your journal
- Re-read a beautiful passage in a book you love
- Gaze upon the silky petals of a rosebud
- Walk outside and watch the clouds in the sky
- Strip your sheets, wash them with using your favorite smelling fabric softener, and then lovingly make your bed
- Take a long, hot shower and reverently massage body wash into every part of your body. Or, if you are longing to feel more, use along handled scrub-brush and lather up every single inch of your skin. Follow up by tenderly stroking yourself as you apply lotion after your shower.
Nine – Last, But Not Least, Seek Help
While I know that life coaching is a great way to move forward in your life, deep despair and anxiety may require a different kind of help. This is why I often suggest clients also engage with a therapist. Especially if seemingly small occurrences in life are triggering over-the top reactions. Many women – and men – have buried traumatic experiences that can cause fear, anxiety, and despair to re-activate. It isn’t truly the current experience that’s so terrible or untenable. It’s that your remembering when it was.
That’s why therapy is an amazing tool to have in your back pocket. They are a third party that is there to help you explore your past experiences. And, better yet, learn to recognize your triggers. And teach you how to pull out of the spiral of despair and regain your own power.
Remember that a spiral into a moment of despair is simply a fleeting moment in time.
Rather, than believe you’ll neve recover from the spiral, remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. By leaning into the exercises and techniques I’ve shared here, you’ll be more prepared the next time you take a tumble down a rabbit hole.
Also, remind yourself that a moment of despair is often a sign of growth. Because when you bury new seeds of dreams and desire, it’s typical for our minds to resist changes. And what better what to resist change than to stir up feeling anxious or hopeless?
Rather than allow this moment of despair to lead you down the path of self-sabotage, use it as an opportunity to recognize how far you’ve come.
This, my darling, is how you take back your own power. And keep finding ways to love yourself and your life.