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How to Stop Spiraling Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide

When you take a moment to identify the root causes of your spiraling anxiety, you open the door to addressing them one by one to restore a sense of calm.

Written by Sarah Hill
November 24th, 2023

Experiencing an anxiety spiral is a deeply personal struggle, where negative thoughts can take on a life of their own and build upon each other in a relentless loop. These mental spirals are not uniform; they are shaped by personal experiences, fears, and uncertainties, making each person’s struggle with anxiety unique.


What Does It Mean to Spiral Mentally?

An anxiety spiral is a self-perpetuating cycle of negative thoughts that build upon each other, creating a heightened state of anxiety. This creates a snowball effect, where one anxious thought triggers another, and the cycle continues.


The cyclic nature of ancan make it challenging to disrupt the pattern when caught in an anxiety spiral. xious thoughts However, when you take a moment to identify the root causes of your anxiety, you open the door to addressing them one by one to restore a sense of calm.


Causes of Anxiety Spiraling

Anxiety spirals often find roots in various contributing factors:


• Overthinking: Constant dwelling on negative thoughts fuels the spiral, creating a loop that’s challenging to break free from.


• Uncertainty: Ambiguity about the future or a situation can act as a catalyst, triggering the onset of anxiety spirals. The human mind, wired to seek predictability and control, interprets uncertainty as a threat, initiating a cascade of anxious thoughts.


• Perfectionism: The desire for flawlessness sets the stage for anxiety spirals by establishing unrealistically high standards. The pressure to meet these lofty expectations becomes a continuous source of stress, paving the way for the spiral to unfold.


• Catastrophizing: Envisioning worst-case scenarios adds another layer to the complexity of anxiety spirals. When the mind magnifies potential negative outcomes, it further fuels the loop. Addressing this tendency involves cultivating a more balanced perspective, challenging irrational fears, and adopting a pragmatic outlook on challenging situations.


Understanding and recognizing these factors is crucial for those aiming to break free from the grip of anxiety spirals. By pinpointing these triggers, individuals can develop targeted strategies to foster a more resilient mental state and increase their overall mental fitness


The Science Behind Anxiety Spirals

Achieving a better understanding of anxiety spirals goes beyond recognizing triggers. These spirals have tangible effects on the human physiology.


Impact on the Body

Anxiety spirals trigger the body’s stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These physiological changes are part of the body’s natural “fight or flight” mechanism. 


However, when activated persistently, they can lead to a range of physical symptoms, from increased heart rate and shallow breathing to muscle tension. Luckily, there are lots of strategies for getting out of fight or flight, from physical activity to grounding techniques to even our own meditation app at Healium!


The Role of Neurotransmitters

In the brain, anxiety spirals are closely linked to neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Disruptions in these chemical messengers can contribute to the perpetuation of anxious thoughts and can potentially amplify the intensity and duration of anxiety spirals.


Impact on Cognitive Functions

Anxiety spirals can impair cognitive functions, affecting memory, concentration, and decision-making. The constant barrage of negative thoughts consumes mental energy, leaving individuals fatigued and mentally drained.


How to Stop Spiraling 

Breaking free from an anxiety spiral requires a strategic approach. Here’s 8 effective ways to help you regain control over your thoughts and emotions:



• Recognize the Signs

The first step is self-awareness. Identify the early signs of an anxiety spiral, such as increased heart rate or racing thoughts. Recognizing these signs allows you to intervene before the spiral gains momentum.



• Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation anchors you in the present moment, creating a mental space that counters the suffocating feeling of anxious thoughts.


By focusing your attention on the breath or a chosen focal point, mindfulness meditation facilitates a deeper understanding of one’s mental states but also equips individuals with the tools to interrupt the cycle of anxious thoughts. Consistent practice fosters a mindset that embraces clarity, calmness, and heightened resilience.



• Challenge Negative Thoughts

Actively challenge and reframe negative thoughts. Ask yourself if your fears are based on facts, and try to find a more balanced perspective. 


This practice of cognitive restructuring not only helps break the cycle of anxious thoughts but also fosters resilience by promoting a more realistic and positive outlook. By challenging negative thought patterns, you build a mental framework that is less susceptible to spirals of anxiety and also more adaptive to life’s challenges.



• Set Realistic Goals

Avoid setting unrealistic expectations. Break down tasks into manageable steps, celebrating small victories along the way. 


This approach cultivates a sense of accomplishment with each milestone achieved, reinforcing a positive and motivated mindset. By embracing a realistic goal-setting strategy, individuals minimize the risk of triggering anxiety spirals in the first place.



• Create a Relaxation Routine

Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Whether it’s deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or a calming VR meditation session, find what works best for you. 


The regular practice of relaxation techniques is a powerful tool in managing stress and preventing the build-up of tension that can lead to anxiety spirals. It’s about nurturing a self-care practice that becomes an anchor in the midst of challenges.



• Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking about your feelings can provide valuable insights and emotional support.


Opening up to others fosters a sense of connection and allows for a shared understanding of your experiences. Seeking support is a courageous step towards building a strong support system that can offer guidance, empathy, and a collaborative approach to overcoming anxiety spirals. 



• Limit Stimulants

Reduce intake of caffeine and stimulants, as they can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Opt for calming herbal teas or water instead. 


Choosing beverages that promote relaxation over stimulation aligns with a holistic approach to managing anxiety and positively impacts your physical well-being and emotional state. 



• Establish a Sleep Routine

Adequate sleep is essential for mental well-being. Establish a consistent sleep routine to promote better sleep quality. 


Creating a calming pre-sleep ritual, such as reading a book or practicing gentle stretching, can signal to your body that it’s time to unwind. This enhances the quantity of your sleep and improves its overall quality, contributing to a more rested and resilient mind the next day.


Try Biofeedback and Meditation for Anxiety

Managing anxiety spirals requires a solid understanding of the connection between mind and body. Mindfulness meditation especially stands out as a practical tool. By grounding you in the present, it disrupts the cycle of anxious thoughts, fostering clarity and heightened resilience.


As you work to manage your anxiety spirals, consider blending traditional techniques with cutting-edge solutions. Healium’s VR meditations, combined with biofeedback, offer a unique, data-driven platform for practicing mindfulness meditation. 


How Healium works

Healium harnesses your body’s electricity, enhancing self-awareness of brain patterns and heart rate for improved calm and focus. Our app offers you valuable insights through a glowing aura tied to your brainwaves, a session specific Healium score, and detailed brain pattern data in your dashboard. 


While not diagnostic, Healium serves as a self-awareness tool, enabling feedback to facilitate self-regulation. With Healium, you can see your feelings and follow a transformative approach to mental well-being.


Healium is validated in 8 peer-reviewed journals and proven to contribute to your mental fitness


To learn more about how Healium works, watch the video below!


About the Author

Sarah Hill, a former interactive TV news journalist at NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates in Missouri, gained recognition for pioneering interactive news broadcasting using Google Hangouts. She is now the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically powered VR/AR channel, helping those with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and other struggles through biofeedback storytelling. With patents, clinical validation, and over seven million views, she has reshaped the landscape of immersive media.

Written by Sarah Hill
November 24th, 2023
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