When you’re in a negative spiral, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You feel crap, you notice all that’s wrong with your life, and then you feel worse, and the cycle can be never ending. You often want to snap out of it but just feel so deflated that it’s difficult to know how.
Wake up call
We’re hardwired to be negative. I know this goes against what everyone says – that we’re all in pursuit of happiness – but if there’s a contrary way of viewing things, you can bet I’ll be there flying that particular flag.
We didn’t survive for all these thousands of years by being positive. We couldn’t just go out into the wilderness and hope the tiger was a pussy cat. We had to be on the hunt for things that jeaopardised our safety. The minute we saw something dangerous, we had to amp up our awareness. We had to be on the lookout for more danger. More that was potentially going to go wrong. Sound familiar?
Whether you’re raising kids, going to work or building up your own business, you’re not alone in having days where it feels like you’re failing miserably. We all have many different challenges in life, yet we share surprisingly similar physiologic responses.
So on a practical level, the first thing you can do is at least feel a breath of relief that what you’re going through is a totally normal and lifesaving reaction – you’re not a bad person for this negative spiral. You probably just need a little bit more support, and some super loud cheerleaders in your corner!
There are a million different coaching techniques that ask you to think about all the great things you can be proud of, to write down positives, work out your fears. They’re all wonderful techniques, but I’m a brain geek, so I understand that when you’re in fear mode, you’re in a different part of your brain.
Shift your physiology first
To snap out of your negative spiral, look at your physiology. Stress physiology maintains a flexed posture – look at a kid who’s crying and you’ll see he goes back into the foetal position. That’s flexion. It keeps you firing stress hormones, and you carry on looking for the negative.
- Take a second to stand up, roll your shoulders back, and rotate your hands so you’re sticking your chest out. Extension opens up your chest so you can breathe better. It also activates the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), which is the area of your brain that controls decision making and rational thinking.
- If you have a mini trampoline, bounce on that for 2 minutes, as that will also reset your PFC. If you don’t, do 20 star jumps. It does the same thing, just not quite so fun.
- Then do a simple breathing exercise – breathe in for a count of 7, hold for 4 and breathe out for 5. Repeat this breathing pattern 3x minimum.
Once you’ve changed your physiology, and got out of the survival part of your brain, you’re ready to tackle the ‘thinking’ tasks properly and remind yourself why you’re so blimmin amazing!
Another way to activate your prefrontal cortex is to get adjusted.