How To Stop a Downward Spiral – Immediately!

On Saturday morning, just before leaving for the "I Can Do It" conference here in Toronto this weekend, I was inspired to use my own advice. I was rushing around the house trying to pack and organize so I'd be ready to meet the car taking me to the airport. That's when things started to go downhill. As I set out to make a last-minute green smoothie for the ride, the ice bucket in my freezer overflowed, spewing ice cubes all over the kitchen floor. Then, as I tried to pick them up, I kept slipping and sliding on the wet floor while desperately attempting to get hold of the ice cubes.  

Finally, I discovered I forgot to put the top on my high-speed blender after I hit the high-speed button for a final mix. What happened next looked like the set of a television sitcom. Thick green goop went flying everywhere - on the floor (mixed in with the ice cubes), all over the windows and counters, and all over me! Ugh. 

That's when I stopped to regroup.  I stood quietly in my green kitchen, closed my eyes, and took several deep breaths.  I told myself, out loud, that I was now going to stretch time (a little trick I learned from Deepak Chopra many years ago).  I then proceeded to slowly and systematically clean up the mess while affirming that I had all the time I needed to get ready.  

So, when choosing a previous newsletter to publish this week while I'm gone, I picked the one below to remind us both of a few things we can do to stop a downward spiral.  Better to leave the sitcoms to television, right? 

How to Stop a Downward Spiral 

We all have those days when life hands us one frustration after another, as though we've been possessed by some kind of negative force that brings mayhem to even the simplest tasks. I'm sure you know what I mean. You're running late for a meeting at work when your child's school calls to say your little boy is sick. You grab your paperwork on the way out the door, trip and drop the files all over the parking lot, curse yourself and rush to the car (and of course, you can't seem to get the key in the ignition fast enough). Finally, on your way to pick up your son, you get stopped for speeding and realize that you left your wallet back at the office. By this time it feels like you can't do anything right. 

Sometimes the tailspin begins with something small like an upsetting phone call or an e-mail that pushes your buttons. One moment everything seems fine, and the next thing you know, your mood has quickly taken a turn for the worse. Fortunately there are things you can do to change your mental direction.  

When you find yourself feeling out of sorts, try one of the following actions and see what happens:

1. Clear the air. Do something to shift your energy. Take a shower, change your clothes, or tidy up your office.  If you're at home, vacuum the living room, open a window, or even change the sheets on your bed. As you take these simple actions, imagine yourself clearing energy that might be fueling the bad cycle.

2. Get into motion. One of the quickest ways to change your mental state is to get up and move your body.  For example, when you're feeling overwhelmed, resist the temptation to work even harder to get organized. Instead, take a brisk walk or go for a bike ride. You might even stand up in your office and do thirty jumping jacks. Be sure to shut the door first .  

3. Shift your thinking. Shift your negative thoughts to positive ones as quickly as you can. Recall a favorite childhood song and start singing it out loud (Trust me, "Row, row, row your boat" or "Twinkle, twinkle little star" will make you laugh and feel better). Or, you could pick up an inspirational book, open to any page and start reading out loud.  For some people, taking a nap can do the trick. Sometimes it helps to shut down your mind for a while so you can wake up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. I've been doing this lately and it works wonders!

4.  Put on some music. There's nothing that shifts my mood quicker than music. I still remember the days when I felt stuck or anxious while writing "Take Time for Your Life" and I'd put on the "Mambo Kings" and dance around my office. The wild rhythms were like a secret prayer that calmed my mind and raised my spirits.

Finally, while there are many things you can do to shift a temporary bad mood, sometimes we need to honor the fact that a low mood may be an indication of something deeper. For example, if you've experienced a recent loss, you may need to have a good, long cry. Or, if you feel frustrated or angry about a negative pattern in an important relationship, you might need to rant and rave before engaging in a discussion with your loved one. 

Just like a wound that needs time to heal, sometimes a downward spiral is an indication that your heart needs space, rest, or the loving support of someone who cares.  Be that someone for yourself, first!

Take Action Challenge 

Over the next week, notice when you seem trapped in a negative cycle and use one of the items above to stop it. Be adventurous and try different techniques. By the end of the week you should have at least five examples of things you can do to get yourself back on the right track!

Okay, I can't imagine this week's video is real, but it made me laugh out loud. This will stop a downward spiral for sure. You can find it here.


Simeon 9th July 2013 1:05 pm

Thank You Cheryl.
These are excellent suggestions!


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Author Information

Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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