Here’s How To Stop The Climate Change Anxiety Spiral And Make A Difference
The monarch butterfly, known for its distinctive orange color, is now on the verge of extinction. Numbering in the millions in the 1980s, the monarch population has been in steep decline thanks to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. So, in fall 2020, when I spied several monarch caterpillars feasting on a neighbor’s milkweed plant, I excitedly pointed them out to my young daughters. We soon noticed the caterpillars inching their way toward a neighbor’s garage door, where they spun chrysalises, preparing to transform.
They’d arrived at an uncertain time, two months after we’d woken up to a sky made orange by wildfire smoke, and at the beginning of the third COVID-19 surge in the U.S. I drew something altogether human from their presence: The world may be chaotic and unforgiving, but survival is still possible because nature insists on it.
We walked by each day, anticipating empty cocoons. But the days turned to weeks and the butterflies remained locked inside their husks. They would never emerge.
The monarchs hanging delicately before us never had a shot.
Yet, as I’ve learned recently, this cycle of reckoning with our rapidly changing planet, feeling overwhelmed by powerlessness, and then living in some form of denial or avoidance isn’t inevitable.
Practice Meditation To Overcome Doomscrolling
Buddha is said to have talked about the first darts of the inevitable suffering of life, and how they are different from the second darts we inflict on ourselves when we engage in mental rumination, resistance or grasping for certainty because of the first darts.
Gaining conscious control over your own emotional state and where you put your attention wont magically make the world a less crazy place. There will still be enraging political news stories, heartbreaking environmental disasters, inequality, and of course, the ongoing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But you are always in control of your own reaction, whenever you choose not to throw those second darts. Meditation helps to activate and strengthen this awareness.
We have put together this playlist that helps to keep conscious control of your mind when facing bad news stories and for a mindful smartphone and social media usage:
Or practice on your own with this meditation:
What Are The Automatic Thoughts Running Through Your Mind
This is the most important step in your thought record: List the thoughts and images that popped into your mind relating to that situation. Try to remember what you were thinking at the time.
Automatic thoughts can include:
- The world is an awful place.
- I cant cope with this.
- Im going to end up alone.
If you find yourself caught with ANTs like these, breaking down the situation into tasks may help shift your mindset away from the predominant mood controlling your thoughts.
For example, evaluate why the situation is causing you to think Im going to mess this up before you begin.
If its a work situation, ask whether youre afraid because of past projects that have gone awry? How is this situation different from past projects?
Play out the worst-case scenario and see how you feel about it. Break down your emotions and moods to see if your anxiety or automatic thoughts have any legs to stand on.
As you dig into the details, you might discover that this work situation is independent of your past and future.
Identifying your automatic thoughts is the first step in gaining control of your emotions. What are you telling yourself? Now how can you change it?
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Get In Touch With A Professional
Not everyone can overcome their catastrophic thinking solo, and thats okay! If youre struggling to rein in your thoughts, reach out to a therapist for additional help.
They can work through the causes of your catastrophic thinking and recommend specific, tailored-to-you exercises and techniques. With their help, you can step out of the spiral and start living again.
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Get Moving Outside If You Can
Going outside to exercise might help distract you from your spiraling thoughts, Gould says. This is thanks to both the change of scenery and the fact that physical activity can take up some of your brain space. But if youre heading outside right now, make sure youre doing it as safely as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stay at least six feet away from others when youre out, for example, so only work out outdoors if you can stick to that metric. Make sure you wear a mask too, and follow any specific guidelines in your area. Here are other tips for exercising outdoors right now.
Also, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, like fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should definitely stay inside instead of venturing out unless a medical professional tells you otherwise.
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How To Talk Yourself Down From An Anxiety Spiral
- By Haley Nahman
Sometimes my brain feels a broken record, stuck on a loop of concerns that Im supposed to have already resolved. I would call it mind-numbing if it werent actually the exact opposite.
Id be smarter to call it anxiety which it is and if my social circles and internet circles are any indication, a lot of us get stuck in that same dizzy little boat.
So, in honor of our month of mental health, I talked to Dr. Susan Buchholz about ways we can help ourselves. A practicing clinical psychologist for 37 years before she retired in 2015, Dr. Buchholz spent the majority of her career specifically helping patients with anxiety.
She offered us several strategies for combatting mental spirals and the best part is they can all be done from the comfort of our own brains.
Next time you feel yourself circling, see if one, some or all of these might help you straighten out.
Release That Nervous Energy
Have you ever seen a caged lion that paces back and forth in its tiny environment? Or, perhaps youve felt that uncomfortable energy radiating from someone whos about to come unglued?
The truth is, when were experiencing anxiety, we generate a great deal of emotional energy which we reflect inward into ourselves. However, by making it a regular habit to work up a good sweat, we can release some of that energy and diffuse our worrying minds.
Whether you make it a daily habit to hit the gym or you take a break from a nerve-wracking situation to go for a run or climb some stairs, exercise can really help tame that brain. So, the next time youre struggling, try a little exercise to help calm down. Even if it doesnt stop your anxiety in its tracks, you will still reap the health benefits of giving it a try!
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One: Identify The Trigger
Anxiety doesnt just happen, and it has to be allowed in. There is always some sort of trigger that gives room for anxiety to come. Generally, its something substantial, something that has enough meaning to feed it. We all have a trigger to anxiety, for some, its financial stress, others its health worries or relationship problems. But knowing your trigger can help you make a plan to combat it.
Step two: Play the So-What Game
This is the game where you take your fear or worry and ask yourself questions. You ask yourself questions getting to the worst-case scenario and uncovering would you survive if this happens? Would you be okay? Getting to the bottom and uncovering how bad it could be or not be makes anxiety lose its power.
Who Experiences Irrational Thoughts
Anyone can experience irrational thoughts, and most of us do from time to time. This is especially true for people who are prone to worrying, overthinking, and stress. Certain mental health conditions, such as those that cause paranoia or obsessive behavior, can cause irrational thoughts as well.
If you have any of the following mental health conditions, you may be more likely to experience irrational thoughts:
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Three: Challenge Your Anxiety
Similar to the so-what game, we need to learn to challenge our anxieties. For most of us, our anxieties are perceived notions, stories weve made up to be true, when, in fact, there is nothing truthful about them. Ask yourself, is this anxiety real, or is it perceived? Then ask, is this something likely to happen or unlikely to happen? If its unlikely, like getting swallowed into a black hole, then put it in its place and move on. If it is likely, then make a plan to combat it.
Quick Ways To Cut Off An Anxiety Spiral
Theres a lot to be concerned about right now. Even if your own health and family and income are safe, if youre a human and youre paying attention, its hard not to be worried about whats going on in the world.
Sometimes, you might have a random thought pop into your head the possibility of bad things happening in your future or even a decision you made in the past which leads to another thought and another one, until before you know it, youve launched into an anxiety spiral. Those negative thought loops consume your attention, flood your body with stress hormones, hijack your mood and influence your behaviours. You might find you resort to self-defeating behaviours to soothe yourself , you might feel compelled to make rash decisions or become snappy and irritable with the people closest to you especially when youre in a confined space.
Because we spend most of our day operating on automatic pilot, its easy to become hooked into negative thoughts unless youre deliberately and consciously working to shift the focus of your attention. Below are some step by step suggestions for how to interrupt the pattern so that you can cut off that loop before it begins.
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Coronavirus Anxiety: How To Stop The Panic Spiral
It is scary, theres no doubt. When we open thenewspapers we are assaulted by headlines that are not reassuring. We see an increase in the number of people infected anddeceased, with some vertigo and sometimes even with a sense of unreality, as ifit were difficult for us to get used to the idea of what is happening. Oureveryday conversations begin to turn more and more around the coronavirus.Social networks are flooded with messages that do not talk about anything else.And so, immersed in this unusual and uncertain scenario, it is not strange thatthe coronavirus anxiety soars.
Epidemics can create a Hobbesian nightmare: the war ofall against all. A major outbreak of novel, fatal epidemicdisease can quickly be followed by plagues of fear, panic, suspicionandstigma, wrote Philip Strong. This is why it is soimportant for each person to control their anxiety, a favor that they do tothemselves and to others.
How To Stop Catastrophizing And Reduce Your Anxiety
If you, like many people right now, are experiencing high levels of stress, you may be catastrophizing. As the name suggests, this is when your brain goes into an active anxiety spiral that leads you down a long, scary rabbit hole to the worst-case scenario. Or, in other words: a catastrophe.
Ive definitely experienced this during the pandemic, particularly as a freelance writer with no predictable source of income. But even before COVID-19, Ive always had an active imagination that sometimes caused adverse side effects. An edit on a story was never just a quick question from an editor it was the end of my writing career. A disagreement with a friend wasnt a simple misunderstanding it meant they never wanted to speak to me again.
If this sounds familiar, heres a crash course about catastrophizing and some tips for coping:
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Whats Your Mood In This Situation
Describe your moods in one word and then rate the intensity of these moods on a percentage scale that equals 100. For instance, if youre handing in a work project, your moods may include:
- guilt, perhaps if its being handed in late
In this case, if nervousness which falls into anxiety is your predominant mood, youd rate it around 80 percent. Irritation and guilt would then fill up the remaining 20 percent.
The percentage doesnt have to be perfect just go with your gut. The main point of rating them is to see how much of your thoughts were influenced by a specific type of mood an anxious mood versus a guilty one, for example.
General Coping Strategies For People With Anxiety
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may experience symptoms of your anxiety very frequently, not just when you are having a panic attack.
Common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Being unable to relax and feeling tense, irritable, or nervous
- Worrying immensely about the past or future
- Feeling tearful
- Chest pain, increased heart rate, or heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
The tips above for easing the symptoms of panic attacks can also help reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and other forms of anxiety. However, additional lifestyle changes may help reduce longer term symptoms of anxiety.
Coping strategies that can help when you are feeling particularly anxious or stressed include:
Sometimes, however, these coping strategies may not be enough to help you feel better or in control, in which case speaking with a professional may be a good idea.
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Take A Proactive Approach
Dont wait for a downward spiral to occur before you start taking action. Be proactive and practice self-care as part of your daily routine. This will help reduce the likelihood a relapse will happen.
Some of the activities that reverse the downward spiral can also be used to take that proactive approach. They help build resilience, process thoughts and emotions, and improve your overall mental wellness.
Here are some examples of ways you can take a proactive approach and avoid burnout: