How to Prevent a Downward Spiral
Getting caught in a downward spiral is hard. Most of the time, you may feel like you can't do anything about it. You may wake up to discover that things are not going your way, and it's pretty easy to let these situations convince you that you're going to have another bad day.
However, if you think about it, the events themselves are neutral. Hundreds of inconveniences happen throughout the day; you simply don't notice them because they don't affect you. Our reaction to these events causes a minor annoyance to snowball into an all-encompassing dark mood. While you can't control the outcome of the majority of these incidents, you can change how you respond so you can prevent a downward spiral.
See things as they are
It is our instinct to jump to worst-case scenarios, and this induces our bad moods. For example, you realize one day that your current prosthesis doesn't meet your needs anymore. It's natural to think about what action this situation requires from you, such as taking time off from work to get a new prosthesis or setting aside the time you don't have to seek authorization from your insurance.
While your concerns are valid, the situation itself is neutral. Prosthetic equipment is not meant to last forever. If not today, your prosthesis, at some point, will require servicing or replacement.
Before you allow yourself to feel anxious or worried, reframe the situation so you can see things as they are.
Let go of the urge to fix your feelings
Whenever we feel down, it's natural to feel the urge to "fix" the emotion. This urge is typically accompanied by an assumption that something is wrong with us, which does not help the situation.
The problem with this approach is that as we try to think our way out of a funk, we may inadvertently fuel it. Psychologists say that paying attention to these downward spirals allows them to multiply.
Instead of fixing your feelings, accept your sadness as a natural state. Allow yourself to experience it and then let it pass. However, it does not mean that you let yourself passively slide into a deeper funk; instead, engage with your emotions mindfully.
One way to do this is by doing a simple meditation or breathing exercise. Find a comfortable space to sit and close your eyes. If you don't feel comfortable closing your eyes, find a blank space where you can fix your gaze, like a wall.
Take a few full, slow breaths, or you can try the 4-7-8 breathing technique (breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale through your mouth for eight counts). Think about the issue you're struggling with, then shift your attention to the sensations you feel in your body. Take note of how you feel: are you tense or shaky? Acknowledge these emotions and let your body relax. Observe also other thoughts related to the issue, but always return the focus to your body.
Keep in mind that meditation and breathing exercises don't get rid of the emotions. But they should help them pass quickly. Knowing that what you feel in the moment is temporary will keep you from being pulled down further.
Plan activities that make you feel good
When you're in a bad mood, you also typically don't want to do the things that can make you feel better, like talking to a friend or working out. However, research suggests that planning and engaging in activities that you enjoy can break a downward spiral.
As soon as you find yourself feeling down, call your friend, go for a walk, or have a solo dance party. Even if you can't do anything during the moment, making plans to do your favorite activities should help distract you from your misery.
Furthermore, don't stress out about getting in an hour's worth of exercise. If you can only do 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, you can still reap the mood-boosting benefits of moving your body.
The tips above can help you prevent a downward spiral; however, this is only the first step. Once you've regained your composure, consider what action you might need to take. Talk to your prosthetist so he or she can help you work through any prosthetic-related issues. Once you know what you're working with, the problem won't seem as daunting.