Spiraling Out Of Control: How To Stay Calm When Experiencing Anxiety

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sometimes, life can feel overwhelming, and it may seem like you’re spiraling out of control. It doesn’t usually help when emotions run high, and it can be hard to focus on what your next steps should be. The key is generally to recognize when anxious thoughts may be taking over your day-to-day life and focus on productive thoughts and actions to help you get through the moment. When you feel life spiraling, it can be helpful to recognize that you do have control, take deep breaths, face and challenge your feelings, and stay busy. A life assessment can identify any areas of your life that may require action or change. Working with a therapist can help you discover the anxiety management strategies that are most effective for you.

Addressing your anxiety: Recognize that you have control

Learn ways to remain calm when anxiety occurs

When you feel like life is spiraling out of control, it may seem as if you have no control, especially when things seem to happen with or without your influence. Sometimes, you may go through things you don’t want to experience because they bring unwanted feelings and remind you of a person or reality you don’t feel comfortable recalling. Other times, you may feel like you can’t get a break. While there may be times things happen that are out of your control, it can be crucial to recognize that this is okay, and you can still take control of the way you respond to these situations. Developing coping strategies to manage your anxiety can help you promote better mental health, practice self-compassion, and cultivate a sense of control in your life

Take a deep breath

The moment you feel things are spiraling out of control, try to take a step back and breathe. The overwhelming feelings you may be experiencing are likely part of your body’s fight-or-flight response. This response is typically what contributes to the physical aspects of anxiety. As you stop to reflect on the moment, you might take a deep breath and relax. Learning breathing techniques may reduce the effects of anxiety quickly.

You can use breathing techniques to visualize yourself in a state of calmness. Keep the image you create in your mind and refer to it when you feel anxious. Then, as your mind calms, you might think the situation through, assessing the circumstances and creating an opportunity to establish a favorable outcome.

Face your feelings

Feeling some amount of anxiousness can be a normal human response. It can be okay to admit to yourself what you’re feeling and accept what is happening inside you. As you recognize and acknowledge them, the anxious feelings may decrease in intensity.

Challenge your thoughts

It can be helpful to ask yourself questions to readjust your thinking. You may ask yourself if your thoughts are rational or if things could be worse. Try to assess your ideas and identify ways to handle the situation. This is a common strategy practiced by people who reach out for professional help with anxiety disorders. Therapists often help clients identify cognitive distortions that may trigger their symptoms. 

For example, someone who made a small mistake at work may believe they’re going to lose their job, despite an otherwise excellent record. Challenging that irrational thought may help them avoid feeling anxious and potentially spiraling out of control.   

Stay busy

When you feel like your emotions are spiraling out of control, you might use productive mental health methods to release them, such as going for a walk to calm yourself or practicing self-care. Tasks like taking a shower, washing the dishes, or tidying your room can help you give yourself love while keeping busy. 

Try to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms that may lead to harm to property or others, like punching a wall. Such actions may fuel your emotions instead of helping you resolve the matter. It can be vital to be careful driving as well. 

Other things you can do when confronting anxiety may include listening to music, relaxing your body by lying down and resting, and journaling to write out what is triggering such feelings. You may also wish to consider holistic remedies like acupuncture, which can provide relief by inserting needles into pressure points throughout your body.


Life assessment: Are you getting what you want out of life?

Understanding your thoughts, feelings, and relationships with family and friends can be an excellent first step when it seems like life is spiraling out of control in the wrong direction. It may require spending more time learning about yourself and where you want to be. When things are not working well in your world, staying clear of substances can be especially important for getting back on track.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Sometimes, anxiety is influenced by being in an unwelcome position in your life. Maybe you’re struggling to accept something you wish you could go back and change. Perhaps you’ve been contemplating the next move to make, such as going back to school or changing your career. Maybe you’ve reached a point in your life where you recognize the inevitability of change, but you’re having a problem accepting it, or there is conflict in a relationship with an important person in your life.

Anxieties may be keeping you from taking necessary action. Anxiety symptoms can make it challenging to make decisions and resolve problems. Maybe you have problems coping with anxiety, or you don’t realize how much control anxiety has over your actions. You may also be living with a comorbid mental health condition, like depression. Whatever challenges you’re experiencing, there may be ways to address and resolve them. It may take working with someone like a licensed therapist to understand your abilities and how to apply them in your particular situation.

You normally need to be willing to take action if you’d like to regain control. This may include doing things differently, such as learning healthy habits, releasing an unproductive idea you have about yourself, changing your social circle, or working with your doctor or healthcare professional regularly. Try to focus on what you can do to remedy the situation and determine how you may use your power to make positive changes in your mental health and life.

Live life at your own pace

When you feel like life is spiraling out of your hands, try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, you might focus on living your life the best way you can, one day at a time. Sometimes, people don’t spend enough time recognizing what makes them unique. It can be okay to be different, and it may take time to accept that. Try to avoid rushing to get things done too quickly or thinking you need to accomplish something by a certain period in life. If you let your emotions spiral out of control, it often becomes more challenging to view things from a realistic perspective.

Address mental health challenges in therapy

If you feel like life is spiraling out of control, have you considered working with a therapist or talking about your problems with a licensed mental health professional? It can be hard to move forward when you feel like you’re not in control, but there may be many ways to tackle these feelings and gain a clearer picture of your situation. Understanding how your thoughts and feelings influence your anxiety can be a significant step forward. One of the best ways to understand this may be by talking things through with a therapist. 

There are typically different types of talk therapy that can provide comprehensive support for anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which usually focuses on identifying and changing thought patterns contributing to your emotions and behavior, is usually one of the most popular approaches to therapy for anxiety. A meta-analysis that looked at multiple studies of the effects of CBT on anxiety found that CBT “had a large effect on reducing anxiety symptoms”.

Online therapy can help you regain control

There will likely be times in life when you may feel stressed out and overwhelmed, but you don’t necessarily have to work through it alone. Connecting with a therapist often has advantages you can benefit from in the long term, and now it can be done from the comfort of your home. Many research studies show that online CBT therapy can be just as effective for anxiety and feeling out of control as in-person therapy. 

Connecting with an online therapist can provide convenient support when you need it most. You may schedule sessions that fit into your daily life and speak with a licensed mental health professional via online chat, phone call, or video call. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for the help you deserve.

Learn ways to remain calm when anxiety occurs


When it seems like life is spiraling beyond your control, it can be helpful to take a moment to stop, think, and reflect. Sometimes, you may need to step away from the situation to breathe so you can think clearly. Try to recognize the emotions you’re feeling and why. Are the goals you want realistic and attainable? Is something happening that you need to give yourself time to accept? When you take a moment to think and focus on what is happening, you may realize things are not as bad as you thought, and you may see a solution or a way out of the situation. Working with a licensed therapist online may help you exercise your own power and control to navigate trying moments and practice skills to reduce your daily stressors.
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