I have a question...
How to get out of an endless loop of having a problem.. say anxiety, Googling what to do endlessly (desperately trying to find a solution trying a 1000 things) feeling better the next day… few days later... u find yourself on Google again trying to find a better solution?
We all have some habits, habitual emotions, or habitual behaviours that we have tried to get over with or move on from, but just can’t seem to do so. Behaviours that are related to work, self, personal goals, which are anxiety increasing, that we have tried to solve in the past. And even though the intervention worked well for quite some time, we were back on our resources, finding solutions for the same habit or thought. These are the habitual loops having roots in your subconscious mind. The ones you are hardly aware of. Although, it is difficult to recognise them, once you do, it takes some steps to manage them, this is what we will talk about in this blog.
Before starting of let us get some perspective on what a mental loop is. . .
A mental loop in psychological terms, is any recurring thought that is unwanted and produces feelings of anxiety and obsessive in nature. It is the state of thinking pattern where you feel ‘stuck in your mind’. In the context of our today’s blog, a mental loop is any habit or behaviour that has been repetitive and unwanted, such as unable to de-build a habit, unable to build a habit, unable to react differently to a given situation, change a habitual thought pattern or behaviour.
How to get out of a mental loop?
Identify them first!
All these loops must be first recognised! Before understanding the loops we have, it is difficult to change them or tackle them. If there is a thought or behaviour that you have wondered as to why it is recurring, even when you try to change it, that’s our cue! Check for the thought pattern in that area. This can be done by observing your pattern of thinking over a stretch and noticing the patterns that are not helpful, or self-harming and not meeting the goals you want for your life. After recognising the mental loops, here are a few steps we can take to tackle them and produce desirable behaviours.
QUESTION YOUR THOUGHTS
Foremost step to change is questioning. When we know the thoughts that are looping in our minds, all we need to ask is a set of questions. Ask, how much is this contributing to my well-being? Is it making me happy? Does it make sense? Is it rational? How is it affecting me? Is the effect causing distress in my mind? If so, how do I deal with it? Am I successfully managing the unwanted pattern of thinking and behaving? Does it fulfil my purpose or goals?
I often state, ‘Questioning is a powerful tool we often do not know how to use’. Let us use it for doing good to our minds. Questioning is also a therapeutic method that we as mental health professionals utilise and it is a powerful tool if used wisely and appropriately answered.
During the process of self-discovery and self-healing, it is a rule of thumb on refraining from self-blaming. When self-blaming comes into the picture, the bigger perspective is often lost. We forget how to be our own compassionate buddies in the process of healing. When overcoming a mental loop, we need to help ourselves see the bigger perspective of our growth and well-being. And why is that? Because it can help our mind to focus on the wanted thoughts and behaviours; help us shift our understanding of our unwanted loops.
RE-ADJUST YOUR THOUGHTS WITH YOUR LIFE'S GOALS
Align your thoughts according to your personal goals in life. While questioning your thoughts, loops can be tackled by prioritising your thinking patterns. By understanding which thoughts fulfil your personal goals and which are the ones that do not contribute to your personal goals.
UNDERSTAND YOUR TRIGGERS
Evaluate your mind and note the different factors, called triggers that initiate or support the unwanted mental loops. After recognising your triggers for the mental looping, analyse these triggers. Note your first reactions and responses to these triggers. How often are they? How often does the trigger affect the looping thought or behaviour and what impact does it have in your everyday life activities.
SET YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS
Make a list of your expectations from your mind patterns and eventually yourself. As we have already emphasised on aligning your thoughts and behaviours according to your goals and personal well-being. Work on your expectations, one by one, step by step slowly by focusing on the priorities. Expectations must be realistic, easy for the brain to focus on and work on.
Common mistakes we all do: One of the main reasons on why many of us fail at tackling these mental loops, many of the times is because of the high expectations we set for ourselves. For example, expecting the loops to end all at once, change in one day, change by only one-time effort. Some other common mistakes we do are not taking the time to find the roots of the issues, expecting only one method to work for all of us and at all times, which is intangible. Again, ‘keep your expectations realistic, make it easier and simpler’.
RECOGNISE YOUR NATURAL INSTINCT
All of us are unique, and special in our own ways. We all have some patterns of healing that work for us better than the others. The ones that work are closer to our natural selves, our natural beliefs, and understandings. Discover them, and choose a rationality accordingly. This will make it easier, trust me!
DISCOVER THE ROOT OF IT - HEAL THE ROOT
When a mental loop is present, it is not a superficial phenomenon. It most of time, must have emerged from multiple underlying reasons of the mind. Understand the root of it. Pinpoint the root cause of when it started, how did it initially start and look and how has it grown or reduced ever since. As a psychologist, I would always recommend to heal the root. In case you need assistance with that, remember this is your mental health space, @Kindly! I am here to assist you with your journey.
TAKE YOUR OWN TIME