7 Ways to Stay Calm When Life is Spiraling Out of Control

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It’s been one of those days: everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and life is spiraling out of control. We’ve all had days, weeks, and even months of that feeling that we’re rapidly losing all control and falling down in the mud of a taxing existence. 

Feeling out of control is a sensation that can be hard to define, yet it’s a sign that life isn’t on the track you wanted to follow. Anxiety, depression, negativity, and just feeling utterly burnt out all contribute to life losing its luster.

You want to stop the runaway train of negativity, but you seem unable to. 

Thankfully, with a few strategies and hard facts about the anxiety spiral you can begin to reclaim the driver’s seat in your life. Here’s how.

What Does “Spiraling Out of Control” Mean? 

When things “spiral out of control,” it means they are getting worse over time. There’s no improvement, no Band-Aid to fix things, and no change for the better just around the corner. We can all face difficult times if there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but when there’s just more difficult times ahead, we lose focus and pessimism takes over. 

You end up in an anxiety-driven feedback loop, and even if things could get better, they don’t because you are too focused on the negative to see the escape hatch that’s supposed to get you out of the tunnel.

The downward spiral or being caught in a spiral that’s out of control is what your psychologist may call this life-destroying state of being

If you are caught in this self-destructive spiral, you feel like you have no way out, desperate, and that there’s nothing you can do about the situation.

Essentially, you feel lost, helpless, and broken. If only you had a way to manage your anxiety and stop the runaway train that’s bearing you down? 

Instead of trying to find a way off the train, you focus on what the train is going to hit, the fact that it’s speeding up, or that you won’t survive the impact when it finally crashes.

You engage in catastrophic thinking, instead of using your skills and abilities to find a way out of the cycle.

Examples of a downward spiral could be when you wake up with a sore throat, and by lunchtime you are convinced you’ve got a dreaded disease – all because your brain is running up terrors instead of finding answers.

Perhaps you and your partner have a small argument, but you end up believing you’re about to break up, so you pack your bags before your partner even gets home. 

There are several triggers that can precipitate a downward spiral. Watch out for stressful life events, avoid diving into social media posts that make you feel negative, and acknowledge when being overworked is making you feel like you can’t cope. 

Finally, your relationships can have a significant impact on your ability to cope overall, which is often what triggers a downward spiral.  

The Effects of Spiraling Out of Control on You and Your Loved Ones 

When life is spiraling out of your control, you feel overwhelmed, powerless, embarrassed, and a whole load of other negative emotions. And as your life spirals, you do too. 

Sadly, this has a significant effect on you and your loved ones

Here are some of the effects immense stress has on your overall well-being when your life is not going as planned:

  • Physical responses, such as headaches, heartburn, acid reflux, rapid breathing, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and tense muscles and pain  
  • A higher risk of having a heart attack 
  • Insomnia and decreased sleep quality 
  • Increased appetite and weight gain 
  • Weakened immune system   
  • Mental and emotional responses, such as (increased) anxiety, depression, and irritability 

And here are the effects a spiraling out of control life has on your loved ones

  • Destruction of relationships and loss of trust
  • Increased stress from being around you
  • Poor self-confidence as they feel responsible for what’s happening to you
  • Financial implications when you lose your job
  • Health challenges as their stress levels increase in response to your self-destructive spiral
  • Losing faith in you when you make promises you don’t keep

The Importance of Staying Calm

Of course, it’s simple to say that you should just keep calm, take a breath, and magically banish the spiral. It doesn’t work like that, does it? 

The downward spiral has a mind of its own, and you have to develop the skills and tactics to really control your spiral and break the cycle

spiral out of control | out of control | control
You can try yoga or meditation to help you find yourself in the moment.

Your interventions should be aimed at helping you remain calm. When you are calm, you can beat catastrophic thinking, and you can avoid hyper-focussing on the negative. 

Everything's better when you are calm. 

When you are calm, you can clearly think of a solution, strategize your way out of life’s challenging incidents, and you can better respond to the stress of others (instead of piling it up on top of your own breaking shoulders). 

By being calm, you become:

  • Resilient to pressure 
  • Adaptable and creative in the face of challenges
  • More productive
  • Your thoughts become clearer
  • More positive and able to manage change better
  • An inspiration to others, which helps you find support

7 Tips to Stay Calm When Life is Spiraling Out of Control 

So how do you stop the rodeo and get off the downward spiral? While you can’t always stop it, you can find ways to stay on top of things, remain calm, and keep as much control as you can so you can direct that runaway train to the nearest station. 

Here are some ways to stay calm when the world around you is losing its mind. When you feel overwhelmed and like you are about to sink into a bog, you can use these strategies to reinforce your inner calm and remain steadfast on your course. 

1. Take Care of Yourself and Practice Self-Compassion 

The saying is that your body is a temple, but the reality is that your body is also where your mind lives, and if your body is ill, your mind won’t be up to any challenges.

To avoid that downward spiral getting a kickstart, you should look after your body

A body that’s healthy, where your basic needs are met, and that’s free of injury or illness will provide the grounds for a healthy and happy mind to live. Ensure your body is in the best shape it can be by ticking off these basics:

  • Engage in self-care

Self-care is more than a hot bath. It also includes healthy food, enough sleep, exercise, and social interaction with healthy people. Without enough sleep or healthy food, you will suffer a steady decline in your ability to withstand stress and trauma. 

  • Practice self-compassion

Become your own best friend and be kind to yourself.

  • Challenge your physical body

Being physically active, engaging in fun activities, and going for novel experiences that involve your body (such as hiking, sky-diving, or bungee jumping) can all help elevate your mood and relieve stress. 

2. Find Yourself in the Moment

Loads of people will tell you to live in the moment. The past contains what you can’t change, and the future is not certain, so all you have is the present.

Stress often results from worrying about the past or future. We get anxious about these, when all we can influence is the present. 

You can act on the 24 hours of this day, but tomorrow may not even come, so why worry about that. Be responsible for today – it’s what you have and what’s in your control. 

life spiraling out of control | spiraling out | out of control
When the downward spiral has taken control and you feel like you’re gonna hit the bottom at a million miles an hour, you can use your breathing as a lifeline.

Mindfulness can help you focus on the now. When you start to stress over tomorrow, focus on your breathing. Breath is now, now is what you have, and when you can inhale, hold, and exhale, you can deal with today.

The act of breathing also helps to unwind your nerves, calming your mind. You can also try yoga or meditation to help you own this moment.  

3. Distract Yourself 

Ever wished you had a reset button? You do; it’s called distraction. There’s a reason we so easily fixate on those cat videos on Instagram or TikTok (X). It’s a carefree distraction. Use this by purposefully introducing a healthy distraction into your life. 

Take up a hobby like playing a musical instrument, collecting kitsch items, or start renovating your home as a way to distract yourself. 

4. Use Breathing as a Lifeline

When the downward spiral has taken control and you feel like you’re gonna hit the bottom at a million miles an hour, you can use your breathing as a lifeline.

Not only is this an act of self-care, but when your body is starved of oxygen, your mind can’t function optimally; plus, your fight-or-flight response gets triggered. 

So try breathing to help you stop the drop. Try strategies like box breathing, where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then inhale for four seconds and repeat

The rhythm of breathing literally reprograms your mind, slowing everything down so you can get out of the spiral. 

5. Journal About the Spiral

Anxiety and feeling out of control can make you feel isolated and unseen. It also means you don’t feel understood by anyone, not even yourself.

Try writing about your feelings, what you believe to be your triggers, and how you think the spiral sucks you in. 

A journal is also an excellent place to plan your escape and coping mechanisms. Use journaling as your place to step out of chaos and plan your way to peace.

Make actionable steps and follow them from paper into reality until you regain control

6. Get Help and Talk

Monsters are always spoken of in whispers, and anxiety is even worse than childhood monsters, right?

Sometimes, when we speak about the monsters in our adult lives, the very mention of them can strip away their power, which is where a talk therapy session can really help. 

stay calm | how to stop spiraling | downward spiral
Use journaling as your place to step out of chaos and plan your way to peace.

There’s no shame in finding help in the form of a therapist. Having a sounding board who can listen and give you objective advice and guidance can make all the difference to how you get off the spiral.

Plus, they can help you sort through complex emotions you may not understand, which could have triggered the spiral.

7. Be Grateful

When you are stuck in the storm, it’s so easy to focus on the negative. How everything is going wrong and from bad to worse. But you always have things to be grateful for; you just need to focus on those. 

Try to breathe, find a safe space where you can just be, and think of what is going right for you. What are your blessings? 

If you struggle with this activity when life is spiraling out of control, then use the peaceful(er) times and write down the things you have to be grateful for on paper. Place these in a jar, and in moments of chaos, reach in to be reminded of your blessings.

You can also ask loved ones to help you find things to be grateful for (and your support network is one blessing). 

Final Thoughts about Staying Calm When Life Is Spiraling Out of Control 

It sucks when your life is spiraling out of control, and that is doubly true when you are struggling to get a grip on things. While it may seem impossible to find your calm in the storm, it is possible. 

Remember to take care of yourself. You can’t help others and find a way out when you are running on empty. 

Other strategies to stay calm include being mindful and living in the now, journaling, finding healthy distractions (like a hobby), and counting your blessings.   

When you and your life are in a downward spiral, it’s so easy to develop toxic coping strategies to help you deal with your situation. But, sadly, these strategies do more harm than good. 

Here are 11 unhealthy coping mechanisms that are holding you back in life – which ones have tempted you down a further landslide?

And if you're interested in more articles about mindfulness and life, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want a simple way to reduce your stress and anxiety, then try writing these 35 mindfulness journaling prompts to live more in the present moment.

spiraling out of control | life spiraling out of control | spiraling out
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