Today I realised that I am going through the process of a negative cycle.
A negative cycle, for me, is where depression and anxiety thrive.
It’s hard to notice this happening in its infancy, but over time I’ve learned to understand when a negative cycle is forming, and this makes it easier to break the cycle.
In this blog post, I’ll be explaining how the negative cycle works for me, how I plan to break it, and how to recognise it emerging in the future.
It’s important to note that I can never get rid of the negative cycles forever, part of a history of depression is that the mental illness never permanently leaves – and conscious effort must be taken to keep it at bay.
My Negative Cycle & how I can break it
At the moment, I’ve been worrying about a lot of things which are out of my immediate control. Things like my career after graduating next year, my finances post graduation and whether I’ll be overwhelming myself with a lot of work in the upcoming academic year.
Additionally, I’ve been worrying about things that are in my immediate control – like my appearance, my productivity day to day, and my overall validity as a person.
A lot of this worrying comes from a place of genuinely wanting to be in a better place. My version of self destruct comes from a place of toxic productivity, rather than actual self resentment.
An example of my negative cycle in function is worrying about my finances. I’ll tell myself that I’m going to run out of money one day, so I set myself a very strict budget. I then try to live my life on the very strict budget, but feel constricted and upset by the fact that I’ve put myself in such a tight financial margin. This then leads me to miss out on opportunities and results in me feeling bad about myself.
A better approach would be to recognise that there is a chance that my finances may decline at some point in the future. Rather than placing myself on a strict budget right now, it’s more beneficial to do something positive with my current situation – like setting a standing order into a savings account, and making smarter choices when I do spend.
Another negative cycle habit for me is productivity. I place a lot of self worth on what I am doing and achieving, and put my eggs in so many baskets that I might as well be the easter rabbit.
I feel like I’ll never amount to anything, so I try to take on multiple ventures and fill every spare minute with something productive- whether it’s writing my CV or working on my flexibility. A negative outcome of this is that I start to feel incredibly burned out, and struggle to “be the best” in the 2638 different avenues I’ve thrown myself into. This then makes me feel like a failure again.
A good way to deal with this would be to identify things I NEED to achieve, like my degree. Work on that, and then allocate some spare time to the things I’d like to achieve, like a faster 5K PB or tidying my bedroom.
Recognising a Negative Cycle
One of the sad benefits of recovering from a mental illness is that you become pretty skilled in learning what patterns are helpful, and which patterns aren’t.
I started to recognise my mental health declining when I realised I was just going through the motions of a lot of my days.
Rather than thinking about how, why or what I was doing, I’d just move through the days like a zombie.
I placed a lot of self worth on my image, feeling like if a hair was out of place or I looked a bit bloated, then it was the end of the world.
I compared myself to people who are further ahead of me in life, and questioned why I’m not graduated with a house, husband and a Range Rover at 22.
I also found myself trying to aim for and shoot for things I didn’t even want to do. Purely out of the mindset that how I am right now isn’t good enough, so I need to do something to improve myself.
Finally, I started crying more often. I rarely cry, because I’m rarely sad anymore. But little things got to me, everything was internalised and confirmation that I was a bad person.
Now that I’ve recognised my negative cycle, it’s easy to break. Like cutting an electricity circuit, I simple have the stop one of the 4 pieces of the cycle, and it will break. It’s easiest to break the behaviours, as this is a physical action and helps to cut off circulation to the mental processes.