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Avoiding the Downward Spiral: 3 Paths to Avoid

Feb 19, 2024

Why is it that two people facing a similar challenge can react completely differently?

One will look at a challenge and determine to overcome it.  The other will be stopped dead in her tracks. 

When facing difficulty, it is easy to engage in a mental distortion.  Here are three common ways you may already do this: 

  1. You hit a roadblock, you stop, you zoom in on the negative, you catastrophize. You get stuck in the moment. Meanwhile, you completely miss the bigger picture and its possibilities.
  2. You attach the situation to self. It is because you’re not good enough, weren’t prepared enough, don’t have the right resources or support. You ask yourself: what if I fail? what if I let people down?
  3. You procrastinate, you pause, or you punish yourself. You give into distractions or get stuck in self-sabotage and put off taking action.  Then you punish yourself for not being better.

How do you avoid this downward spiral? When you are struggling with something, the first rule is to honor yourself, give yourself some grace. You may think you are the only one.  I guarantee you are not.  Here are some concrete steps to take when you are experiencing negative thinking:

  1. Notice yourself zapping yourself, i.e. zooming in, catastrophizing, engaging in mental distortion. Awareness is always the first step.
  2. Gage your willingness to change your belief. Ask yourself: on a scale of 1 to 10, how willing am I to change my belief? Ask yourself why it is important to do so.
  3. Create a positive reframing of the problem or situation. Examples:
    1. negative thoughts are not there to stop you, they are there to help you pause, rethink, redirect. Ask: what is it I need to rethink?
    2. fear can be paralyzing, unless I use it to do something positive. Ask: what lesson is here for me to learn?
    3. I’ll probably keep feeling terrible about this until I do something about it. Ask: what physical action can I take right now?
  4. Role play with yourself: what advice could give yourself? what would you say to a younger version of you? what would you tell a friend or peer facing the same problem?
  5. What belief should you release? Clarity about the limiting self-belief is important. Be explicit.
  6. What is your new self-talk about this? What is the new thing you will tell yourself to reframe the experience?
  7. What is your commitment going forward? How will you hold yourself accountable to a new thought pattern?

It is helpful to realize that most people give up.  Most never even try.  When you are facing a challenge, you are doing something really hard. You need to own that.  You think it should be easier or you compare yourself to someone else. That’s why the first rule is to honor yourself and give yourself some grace.

As a high-performance coach, I often remind myself, along with my clients that “You don’t know you do it in the moment, but you always give yourself the answer.  What you need to do is give yourself permission.”

Let me know what you think.  How does this help? What is your favorite way to overcome a downward negative spiral?

And, if you are interested in learning more about how to perform at your best – and above standard norms – over the long term, while maintaining your health and well-being, and your relationships, you may be a candidate for group high performance coaching.  Learn more here.



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