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dancesintherain

Stopping negative thought spirals?

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How on earth do you stop negative thought spirals?  All the mint tea and bubble baths and crossword puzzles and yoga in the world won't get my brain to shut up when it starts spiraling downward?

mine tend to hone in on whatever I'm obsessing over at the moment (currently return to work, fear of psychosis experiencing, and fear of personality disorder labeling).  But regardless, I've hit the point where I'm in tears in my bed and that's despite having had a relatively okay day.

Edited by dancesintherain

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I know CBT/DBT has good stuff for this, mostly like challenging it, although then I just wind up in a mental argument with myself about how awful/not awful I am, haha. That stuff hasn't worked for me because of my OCD... it takes a different approach to get those negative thoughts out for me, but the other people I was in group therapy with really liked the CBT and DBT techniques. Interesting you bring up fear of psychosis because that's exactly what I'm really fearing right now, as I'm working my way out of a psychotic mania/mixed episode. Sorry I don't have many suggestions, but you're definitely not alone. 

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Thanks NerdyUnicorn.  I'm also coming out of psychotic mania/mixed state that fell into a depression with intermittent (rare but noticeable) psychosis symptoms. 

Im familiar with CBT in terms of though distortions, analyzing thoughts for whether they are distorted, etc., but it's all after the fact.  In other words, the next day, once I'm calm, I can try to recognize where my thoughts were distorted (though they sometimes still appear rational), but not while spiraling downward.

I've only done one worksheet of DBT stuff but have a do-it-yourself workbook en route.  We will see if it gets me anywhere.

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I've managed to stop negative thought spirals by jumping in the coldest shower ever. The fact that you're freezing is all you can focus on at that point. When you get back out, immediately distract yourself- call someone, Netflix it up, whatever keeps your mind occupied. Of course, I'm better at giving this advice than I am at taking it, but it's worked for me a few times.

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And now I'm nursing peppermint tea because when I laid down to try to take a one-hour nap, my brain started attacking me with all kinds of thoughts about being a fraud, being unwanted, and thinking that anytime I complain I'm catastrophizing.

Brain, I hate you sometimes. 

Edited by dancesintherain

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Years ago, when I first started psych meds and was very depressed, the nurse told me, when I was trying to not have certain thoughts, that it was like trying to not think of an elephant. The more you try not to think of it, the more elephant thoughts plague you. Her point was, give your thoughts a new focus to replace the one you want to stop, rather than try to stop a thought. For years, that meant I used sayings and affirmations, as well as trying to reframe a thought. It actually worked pretty well, and I continue to try to use those techniques if I cycle down. I've never done CBT/DBT so I don't know if that's similar. I also am careful to say, that was helpful for me, but I also have been subjected to being told my depression was all because I insisted on having negative thoughts, and I don't want to give the impression that I buy into that thinking. Lately I've been cycling into some of that negative self talk, and I'm trying to counter it when it happens. It's been a while since I had to deal with it, and I'll see how well my approach to it works. I'm trying to remember to replace the thoughts rather than fight them. Some days that's easier said than done. 

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Have you ever tried ACT? I had an ACT workbook and it helped me a lot. Basically, instead of trying to stop the thoughts, you learn to observe them and acknowledge them and then let them float on by. The analogy in my book is to view thoughts as leaves in a stream and you stand near the stream and watch them float on by,

The key is realizing that thoughts are only thoughts, They are not reality, and they are not necessarily reflective of reality, Just because you think something doesn't make it true, So you let the thoughts float on by without an emotional reaction,

I like ACT. To me it is less insulting than CBT, and it doesn't require you to constantly monitor your inner dialogue and correct distortions, The point is that distorted or not, thoughts are not real,

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thanks @heilmania and @sugarsugar

I tried the cold shower trick, but couldn't pull it off, so I just switched to a warm one because they're frequently therapeutic for me.  I ended up crying over the fact that I was still crying (still meaning however many months into this episode). 

sugarsugar, I like the idea of actually replacing the thought.  I honestly thought of elephants...but a video of a baby elephant trying to cuddle with various people.  I saw thought about it because I can't envision things...I lack whatever capacity that requires.

Before I go back to distracting myself, I have to dump some of the negative thoughts and unhappy emotions:

  • I'm worthless/too demanding/too much of a pain in the neck/unliked/un-needed/not-supported because of PHP not sending the necessary paperwork over the period of a week.  And I personally am incompetent/useless for not making it happen.  And if things really get bad, then I start going down the psychosis line of "this is a test to see if I trust them" which is a load of crap.
  • I just want my life back.  My real, non symptom-y life.  My not having to think about how many hours I slept because I just slept them life.  My able to go to work without thinking about it life.  Apparently my mindless life, but I curse at the idea that mindfulness is the solution to all things.
  • I have no clue how to approach PHP pdoc on Monday, given bubble 1.  I don't know what will result in the end-result that I want and I hate being results-oriented.  I hate having to think about how to possibly get a one or two sentence document in advance instead of just going into the appointment and trusting it will get done, because it hasn't.  I also hate that it makes me doubt other skills, which I have no grounds to doubt.
  • I am terrified about my tdoc and pdoc appointments on Tuesday.  Tdoc because things are still a bit up in the air; pdoc because it's been so long (close to the duration of the program).  How on earth do I summarize the past four weeks?

 

Unrelatedly...a lot of harm was caused by whatever combination of conversations between doctors, a friend, a coworker, and my parents that resulted in my parents randomly showing up at the psych ward when I wasn't expecting it.  I don't know what that chain of events was and I hate it because it makes me now question situations where I actually have signed a release for people to talk.  Not because my parents showed up--it's a good thing that they did--but getting me to be the one to make the call, rather than 15000 HIPPA violations would have been a lot better.  Not because I have tons of respect for HIPPA, in and of itself.  But because part of me likes to be able to trust that processes and procedures can be followed.  And yes--now I'm borderline paranoid when I know people are allowed to be talking about my care, even though I can mostly trust that it's in my interest. 

6 minutes ago, jt07 said:

Have you ever tried ACT? I had an ACT workbook and it helped me a lot. Basically, instead of trying to stop the thoughts, you learn to observe them and acknowledge them and then let them float on by. The analogy in my book is to view thoughts as leaves in a stream and you stand near the stream and watch them float on by,

The key is realizing that thoughts are only thoughts, They are not reality, and they are not necessarily reflective of reality, Just because you think something doesn't make it true, So you let the thoughts float on by without an emotional reaction,

I like ACT. To me it is less insulting than CBT, and it doesn't require you to constantly monitor your inner dialogue and correct distortions, The point is that distorted or not, thoughts are not real,

Thanks--I haven't gone the ACT route.  I just spent money buying a DBT workbook and a journaling/self-guided art therapy one, but I'll consider making that my next one. I like the idea of it. 

Edited by dancesintherain

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I don't necessarily have advice, but I can say that I have this problem a lot. I've had a lot of CBT/DBT therapy which has helped. I find that sometimes I need to just let myself experience the pain in order to let it pass. I'll sometimes put on an album or playlist and let myself "wallow" for a certain amount of time. Once time is up, I do something to distract myself. I have two cats and sometimes I'll get out the catnip and watch them play...

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I'm sorry you're having such a tough time with this. I just wanted to add that I've also found CBT very beneficial. The breakthrough for me was recognising thoughts are not facts. Last year I was severely depressed and negative thought spirals felt like being pulled into a whirlpool. Since then I've done CBT and earlier this year when I had mild depression I had those negative thoughts spiraling again and I was able to challenge them in the moment. It is so incredibly difficult when you're deeply depressed to change your thinking patterns but it is a skill you can get better at. Best of luck!

Also, this song from Steven Universe might be useful/fun: 

 

Edited by fix
fixed typo
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thanks, yes it's hard to challenge when they start spiraling in any direction.  I've been having a slew of negative thought spirals this morning, but I'm at least doing better than a while ago when the thoughts spiraled me into a hospital setting.  at a minimum, since then, i've had everything spiraling out of control, over and over again. 

good song find and yes, useful and fun.  very kind of calm and reassuring sound to it.  hadn't heard of the show before.  something worth exploring or is it just a good one-off (or a couple off) songs?

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I don't actually watch the show but I keep meaning to! I've heard loads of good things about it and I do enjoy the songs.

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I am learning to watch the thoughts and somehow learn to see that I am not "them", though it often feels that I am the thoughts... it's kinda loopy and I get swallowed easily into my negative spins that feed themselves... today is one spinny day...it feels like the spins are part of my nervous system and often find it difficult to detach from them, and I can see how it affects my posture and everything. Lately been drinking lots of tea to keep me "up and awake" and it helps in some way, though I'd like to find better coping mechanisms...

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Cartoons.  Comedy, especially simple and stupid but also something I personally find funny.  Anime.  I've heard GREAT things about Stephen Universe, it's the next one I wanna get into, but I'm also a big fan of Adventure Time.

Anime that is happy, anime that is all about the feels, whatever, but I find the stuff aimed at younger folks better for this.  Fairy Tail is the one I'm currently going through and I love it.  I hear it can get really OW, MY FEELS, MY POOR FEELS, as you go along in the show, but that's one of the things I love about some really good anime.  Or media in general, really.

My room mate can't seem to get into anime, although he DID get into Pokemon Go so now I've got him watching Pokemon mwahahahahaha.  Anyway, I introduced him to Trailer Park Boys on Netflix simply because I needed a funny/feels/simple kinda thing to add to my roster and it'd been forEVER since I'd seen any of that show.  And now he goes to seek it out on his own.

But even better than watching cartoons is watching cartoons with at least one other person.  I've been known to take off to a friend's place for a day or few when the negative thoughts become too much, and there we relax in peace with our anime or whatever.  Okay we don't sit on our butts doing nothing the whole time, but you get the idea.

I definitely find it easier with another person, because if I'm really getting lost in my thoughts their responses (whether I hear them laugh/say something, or see them move/smile at the TV, etc.) can pull be back out and I can ground myself by watching the show again.

I've been through a lot of really awful headspace turmoil connected with life drama/stress and medication fun (including retapering onto Depakote), and while I've always used cartoons and the like in a self care kind of way, this most recent time has been particularly... don't know the word.

Edited by Mirazh

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On 21 August 2016 at 5:14 AM, jt07 said:

Have you ever tried ACT? I had an ACT workbook and it helped me a lot. Basically, instead of trying to stop the thoughts, you learn to observe them and acknowledge them and then let them float on by. The analogy in my book is to view thoughts as leaves in a stream and you stand near the stream and watch them float on by,

The key is realizing that thoughts are only thoughts, They are not reality, and they are not necessarily reflective of reality, Just because you think something doesn't make it true, So you let the thoughts float on by without an emotional reaction,

I like ACT. To me it is less insulting than CBT, and it doesn't require you to constantly monitor your inner dialogue and correct distortions, The point is that distorted or not, thoughts are not real,

I was going to suggest ACT, too. CBT doesn't really help me but ACT techniques help tremendously with this sort of issue. Mindfulness/meditation is a good way to be less at the mercy of your thoughts as well. Even 5 minutes a day can help.

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Dances, I have struggled with this so much. I think you used to follow my blog, once upon a time. 

To be honest, I still struggle. 

But what helps me the most, of all, is just to write things. I put a t-shirt over my laptop screen, and I just start writing. I don't check for typos, I don't pause to review what I've written. I just pour my heart out. Sometimes I don't even save it. I delete it, sight unseen. If I think it's important, I'll clean up the spelling errors and shit, but that's only about half the time. Usually, I just jot down the insights I've gotten (in more legible font, in my paper journal), and call it good. 

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I've recently started a therapy called ACT. Acceptance and commitment therapy.  It's pretty good.  One thing that it has taught is to prefix the negative thought with 'I'm having the thought that....' so rather than thinking 'I'm shit' (which I do often! ) I try to think 'I'm having the thought that I'm shit '

It defused the power of the negative tboughts. Because thoughts are only thoughts not facts.

 

Hope this helps x 

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