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6 Ways to Stop the Downward Spiral to Depression

By Papalars

Let’s start with a story, it goes like this…

Once upon a time there was an overworked, stressed out modern day person, and that person was you! And that person became a victim of a spiral. The Spiral!

You know what I mean, right? Oh, yes you do.  The Spiral is that downward plummet towards depression/anxiety. It’s that sneaky feeling that slowly creeps into your life. It makes you think irrational thoughts that seem reasonable…at the start it’s trying to be subtle:

‘I should have listened more.’
‘I always mess that up.’
‘Life is hard.’
‘Other people can do this, why can’t I?’

Usually, you recognize these types of thoughts are unhelpful and let them slide, but not today, today you listen to them.

Your stress levels increase and you began to ruminate about the bad, ignoring the good.

Nothing is going right. Everything is going wrong. And The Spiral gives a little giggle, he’s winning so this time, he gives you thoughts that are far more irrational than the previous ones:

‘I’m hopeless.’
‘I’m a failure.’
Nobody likes me.’
‘I can’t do anything right.’

But there are other signs too. The Spiral begins to affect your body. You wake up at 5am, thoughts rushing, worrying about the day, what bills need to be paid, when to pick the kids up from school, what your partner said wrong the night before, how you never seem to have anything under control. The day goes by, you feel pressured, there are deadlines, responsibilities, and you’re failing to take care of it all. You don’t have time to deal with these bad feelings, people rely on you. And instead of cooking a healthy meal for your family that night, you get takeout, oh and a bottle of wine. You could really use a glass of wine!

Later, you feel bad that you haven’t cooked a healthy meal, you feel bad that you were home late from work. You’re so tired, and thanks to that bottle of wine (you knew you’d need it) you manage to get to sleep. Thank god. Sleep will help. Too bad you had more than two glasses of wine because after three hours of sleep, when the effects of the wine wears off, you wake up.

Your brain latches onto more negative thoughts. There’s a strange anxious hum in your body, your mind won’t sleep. It can’t sleep. So you get up and watch television, you wonder where your life went, you hate your job, there’s not enough passion in your relationship, the house needs cleaning, you won’t get enough sleep and it’ll make you hopeless the next day.

At 3am you finally drift into dreamland until 7am when your brain wakes you up again. It’s too late for exercise and you’re exhausted, so you have a cup of coffee. That will wake you up. Hours later you’re feeling lethargic as the coffee leaves your system…

This is how the spiral starts. It begins with worries, stress, external pressures, and in order for a quick comfort, a quick fix, we look outside our normal routine. We stop exercising, we eat more unhealthy food or we don’t eat enough nutritious food, we turn to alcohol or other drugs to relieve the bad feelings. This fuels our negative thought patterns. The ones you’re already susceptible to because you’ve had experienced this before. You’ve had this before and you should know better.

And when life begins to look horrible, you begin to get crying spells, you feel angry then sad then dejected.

The Spiral no longer has to try to make you feel horrible, because you agree with him.

When you can’t remember the last time you felt like exercising, when you don’t feel like socialising and need more alone time. When you get caught up in thoughts of the past, feel guilt, shame, rejection, you’re spiralling.


You don’t have to go down this road. You can beat The Spiral. Do these things right now!

1. Make an appointment with your therapist. Immediately.

2. Exercise. Now! If you’re in your home, do some yoga or workout videos. If it’s daytime, go for a walk. Clear your mind. Get a grasp on that calm, manager you were just a few weeks ago.

3. Be compassionate. It’s okay. Things are hard. You can get back on track. Be positive.

4. See a friend. Someone you can talk to. Someone who cares. Someone who’ll encourage you to do healthy things for yourself. Keep that person around and make sure they know just how wonderful they are.

5. Stop the caffeine, alcohol, junk food. I’m a big believer in holistic therapy. We need to be balanced for our minds to be balanced.

6. If you haven’t already, take up mindfulness. Don’t get caught up in the tidal wave that is the incoming swirl of irrational thoughts. Focus on now. Keep in the now until you’re back on track.

No matter how complicated things feel, the solutions can be very simple. Give yourself a fighting chance and take the steps listed above to get back on track. And next time that spiral starts, remember, you can choose not to go there!

6 Ways to Stop the Downward Spiral to Depression

Kylie Coulter

Kylie Coulter is and has been an online therapist for six years. She has an Honours Degree in Psychological Science and a Professional Diploma of Counselling. She writes psychology articles for magazines and is currently publishing an academic paper on Expressing Emotion via the Internet.

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APA Reference
Coulter, K. (2012). 6 Ways to Stop the Downward Spiral to Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Sep 2012
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