A young woman wants to use 7 strategies to stop herself from spiraling.

7 Strategies For How To Stop Yourself From Spiraling

Managing spiraling negative thoughts takes time and patience but can lead to improved mental health and thought patterns.


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Trigger warning: Self-harm, suicide. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in danger of harming yourself, this is a mental health emergency. Contact The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7 by calling or texting 988.

Spiraling thoughts can feel like being trapped in a loop of negative thinking, leading to increased feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. It can feel like being caught in a cycle of downward thoughts that are hard to break, causing distress and difficulty in focusing on anything positive.

Here, we’ll cover ways to stop spiraling thoughts, why they happen, common triggers, and when to seek professional help.

7 strategies for how to stop yourself from spiraling

Managing a spiral of negative thoughts or emotions can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can employ to regain control and stop yourself from spiraling further. Here are seven practical approaches for how to stop spiraling:

1. Mindfulness and grounding techniques

Practice mindfulness exercises or grounding techniques to return to the present moment. Focus on your breathing, sensations in your body, or surroundings to anchor yourself and break the cycle of rumination and negative feelings.

2. Challenge negative thoughts

Challenge negative thoughts with rational counterarguments. Ask yourself if there is evidence to support the negative spiral or if they are exaggerated. Reframe negative self-talk into more realistic and positive perspectives.

3. Seek social support

Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist for support. Talking to someone who understands and cares about you can provide perspective, validation, and encouragement to help you through difficult times.

4. Engage in positive activities

Engage in activities that bring joy, relaxation, or a sense of accomplishment. This could include hobbies, exercise, spending time with loved ones, or volunteering. Redirecting your focus towards positive experiences can disrupt negative spirals.

5. Limit exposure to triggers

Identify triggers that contribute to your spiral and take steps to limit your exposure to them. This could involve setting boundaries, avoiding specific environments or people, or restricting your consumption of distressing media.

6. Practice self-compassion

Be kind and compassionate towards yourself, especially when facing challenges or setbacks. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and that you deserve love and acceptance.

7. Develop coping strategies

Build a toolkit of coping strategies that work for you. This could include relaxation techniques, journaling, creative expression, or cognitive behavioral techniques. Experiment with different approaches to find what helps you regain control and cope effectively with a difficult negative emotion.

Remember that overcoming negative spirals takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. If you find that you’re struggling to manage on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Why do negative thought spirals happen?

A negative thought pattern can happen for various reasons. Our minds tend to focus on negative information, leading to distorted perceptions of reality. Feelings of stress can overwhelm and trigger spirals, impairing our ability to regulate emotions and think clearly. Past experiences, especially traumas or repeated setbacks, can reinforce negative thinking patterns. Additionally, lacking coping skills or striving for perfection can exacerbate spirals. External factors like toxic relationships or exposure to distressing media can further fuel unwanted thoughts. Chemical imbalances in the brain, such as low serotonin levels, may also contribute to negative spirals. Understanding these factors can help people develop strategies to manage and overcome negative thought patterns, fostering a more positive outlook.

Common triggers for spiraling thoughts

Several common triggers can set off spiraling thoughts and lead to negative rumination:

  • Stressful events
  • Conflict or criticism
  • Uncertainty and change
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Negative self-talk
  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Physical health issues
  • Lack of sleep or fatigue
  • Substance abuse
  • Overwhelm and overload

Recognizing these common triggers can help people anticipate and manage their response to stressful situations, enabling them to intervene early and prevent a negative thought spiral from gaining momentum. Developing healthy coping mechanisms and seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals can also be beneficial in managing spiraling thoughts effectively.

When to seek professional help to stop spiraling negative thinking

Seeking professional help is a proactive step towards addressing negative thinking patterns and improving mental health. Whether through therapy, counseling, medication, or a combination of approaches, mental health professionals can provide the support and guidance needed to overcome spiraling negative thoughts and cultivate a more positive outlook on life. 

Here are five indicators that it may be time to seek professional support:

Interference with daily functioning

If negative thinking patterns significantly interfere with your ability to carry out daily activities, such as work, relationships, or self-care, it may be time to seek help. Persistent intrusive thoughts that impact your productivity, concentration, or decision-making warrant professional intervention.

Persistent and intense symptoms

If negative thoughts and emotions persist over an extended period and intensify in severity despite efforts to manage them on your own, it’s crucial to seek professional assistance. Symptoms such as constant worry, hopelessness, or persistent negative thoughts may indicate an underlying mental health condition that requires treatment.

Inability to cope effectively

If you find yourself unable to cope with unwanted thoughts and emotions using healthy coping mechanisms or self-help strategies, seeking professional help is advisable. A mental health professional can provide personalized strategies and support to help you develop more effective coping skills.

Impact on physical health

Negative thought patterns can manifest in physical symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, or changes in appetite. If these physical symptoms persist or worsen alongside negative thinking patterns, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider or mental health professional to address both the psychological and physical aspects of your well-being.

Risk of self-harm or suicide

If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide or if you have engaged in self-destructive behaviors, it is crucial to seek immediate professional help. Contact a mental health crisis hotline, your primary care physician, or go to the nearest emergency room for assistance. These thoughts and behaviors require urgent intervention and support from trained professionals.

Mental health support at Charlie Health

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people dealing with serious mental health conditions. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies into individual therapy, family therapy, and group sessions. With treatment, managing your mental health is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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