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5 Little Things You Can Do When You’re Spiraling (And Feel Like You Can’t Stop)

Hi, my name is Molly Burford and I spiral a lot. Most times, my mind looks a bit like this:

And it really fucking sucks.

Luckily, after therapy (shout out to Stephanie), my own personal observations, and some good ‘ol fashioned Googlin’, I’ve come compiled five little strategies to help short-circuit a spiral when you feel like you just can’t stop it.

1. Take a fucking shower.

Or anything that will change your body temperature, such as holding ice cubes or simply running your hands under warm or cold water. A change in body temperature can literally elicit a change in your mental state. This is a nod to one of the skills taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), called TIP, and is part of their distress tolerance strategies. It is said to help someone who is experiencing emotional distress refocus and ground oneself.

Personally, I’ve found this tip (lol) to be very beneficial. When I’m in a particularly grueling spiral, I’ve literally taken hot and cold showers to help slow my thoughts and regroup. Not only do I feel like I’m doing something for #selfcare, but physiologically speaking, I’m literally changing my body chemistry. It’s a simple but effective trick to stop a spiral in its tracks.

2. Change your scenery.

One thing I like to do when I’m really struggling is force myself to run an extremely quick and easy errand to a store nearby, getting out of the house and into a fresher mindset. Not only do I cross something off my to-do list, but I’m also physically stepping out of my surroundings, symbolically, if you will, shelving whatever it is that’s ailing me. Because let’s face it, it’s easier to have a mental breakdown alone in your room than in the aisles of Target. (Author’s note: I’ve done both. Highly recommend a private freakout.)

Extra challenge: Make sure you go to an actual person to check out. No self-checkout. This will force you to make conversation, taking the focus off yourself and onto someone else, ultimately rerouting your mind from worrying about x, y, z and into exchanging quick pleasantries with a fellow human being. Sometimes, our mind just needs a little redirection. That’s all.

3. Plan for your ideal life with a ~vision board~.

Sounds corny, but this also serves as a reminder that whatever you’re going through is temporary. You’re not always going to feel this way. You’re not always going to be lonely or broke or miserable (or all three!).

So get your creative juices flowing and set up a Pinterest board, a physical board, a five-year plan, and end-of-year plan…whatever serves you best. Visualize what you want out of your life and brainstorm ways to achieve those things. Yes, not everything will be possible. But it’s also okay (and beneficial!) to hope. After all, according to Rewire Me, creating a vision board brings clarity to your dreams, allows us to reach a greater level of awareness, and, what I think is the most important, it provides incentive. It helps keep our “eyes on the prize” and our resilience strong. It reminds us why we started and why we ought to keep going.

4. Acceptance mantras.

Because sometimes “being positive” doesn’t always work; in my experience, though, acceptance does. In DBT, this is called “radical acceptance” and it’s the ultimate surrender to what is, rather than focusing on what we think “should” be. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not surrendering to your circumstances, but rather it’s acknowledging and allowing reality. Fighting what already has happened is what leads to suffering. Accepting what has happened and figuring out what to do next leads to problem-solving.

Some examples of some radical acceptance mantras/statements include:

  • It is what it is.
  • It’s no use fighting the past. 
  • This moment is exactly as it should be, given what has happened before it. 
  • I cannot change what has already happened.

Also, come up with your own variations of the aforementioned statements. Find one that resonates most with you and repeat it out loud or silently whenever you start ruminating on something. It helps bring peace to your mind and soul when you stop resisting and start allowing. Try it.

5. Write it down, fold it up, come back to it later.

Psychology Today recommends writing down whatever it is that’s causing your mind to race. This allows you to return to these things later. To make it extra powerful, fold up the paper after you’re done writing down your worries and put it somewhere safe. It’s a way to symbolically compartmentalize and give yourself a break from the worries. With distance gives new perspectives which can lead to new solutions. And sometimes, letting something be makes you realize there was nothing really to worry about in the first place.


When we’re in a place of personal crisis, it’s easy to get wrapped up in whatever is going wrong. This is human and understandable. But ruminating and obsessing over something that has already happened, only might happen, or will probably never happen does not serve you or anyone else. It is unproductive and causes unnecessary suffering. The next time you find yourself in a spiral, try the aforementioned strategies to help calm yourself and bring peace back to yourself. You deserve to feel okay. You deserve to feel at ease. 

Also, you do not have to handle this on your own! Sometimes, racing and ruminating thoughts need to be treated through therapy and that’s totally okay. There are many types of therapies available according to your needs and Psychology Today has an awesome guide to the different types, as well as a directory to therapists in the U.S. There is no shame in needing someone to talk to. It could very well save your life; it saved mine.

So, in conclusion:

You will be okay. I will be okay.

We got this. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Molly Burford

Writer. Editor. Hufflepuff. Dog person.