June 2

How Can I Pull Myself Out of a Rabbit Hole Anxiety Spiral?

How Can I Pull Myself Out of a Rabbit Hole Anxiety Spiral?

Anyone with an anxiety disorder knows the feeling of slipping deeper and deeper into spiraling, rabbit hole anxiety. I’ve fallen down that hole plenty of times myself, and I know how scary it can be. So, how can you pull yourself out of a rabbit hole anxiety spiral?

  • Educate Yourself About Your Anxiety
  • Take Preventative Measures to Keep Your Mind Healthy
  • Practice Mindfulness and Exercise Your Ability to Keep Control
  • Think Logically: Is There Something You can do About This?
  • Try to be More Positive
  • Address Severe Anxiety

Rabbit hole anxiety can lead you to really hone in on your negative thoughts. Your fear and worry may cause your anxiety to spiral out of control, eventually leading to severe anxiety or even a panic attack.

The rest of this article will be spent diving deeper into methods to stop this mindset. By the end, you should feel confident knowing how to pull yourself out of the dreaded anxiety rabbit hole.

Let’s begin!

Educate Yourself About Your Anxiety

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to educate yourself about your anxiety.

Like any emotion – sadness, anger, happiness, jealousy, etc. – anxiety is a complex thing.

If you want to make life a lot easier, take some time out of your day to educate yourself about what anxiety is and why we experience it.

The basic function of anxiety is that it works something like your brain’s own automated surveillance system. Our brain, the brain of a homo sapiens, is at least 40,000 years old. Early man evolved in a much more dangerous environment than our environment today, and it took constant vigilance to stay alive. While our environment today is much less threatening, it still presents its own kind of chaos. Our brain’s surveillance system continues to scan the environment; when it can’t find threats like lions and tigers, it lowers its “threat threshold” and becomes triggered by other things: Things like public speaking, being rejected, or turning an assignment in late. You can follow this link to learn more about what anxiety is and why we experience it.

Once you understand the general concept of anxiety, it’s a good idea to try and figure out what kind of anxiety you might have. A professional counselor can help you with this, or you could just do some light reading on this article about the most common anxiety disorders.

Going down the rabbit hole of anxiety can be scary and confusing. Knowing these basics may not be enough to pull you out of the rabbit hole, but at the very least it can be a small light in the darkness for you to navigate your way out.

Take Preventative Measures to Keep Your Mind Healthy

The only thing better than pulling yourself out of rabbit hole anxiety, is not falling into the rabbit hole in the first place. At first glance, you might feel inclined to dismiss anxiety as something that you’re “just stuck with,” but this is not the case.

There are many tried and true methods for preventing anxiety in general.

Some of these methods include:

I have no doubt that you’ve heard plenty about these methods already. But have you actually considered how they might decrease anxiety in your life? Choose one or two to start; follow the links to read up on them a bit.

Even if these methods decrease your anxiety by as little as 10%... isn’t that worth it? (Not to mention the rockin’ bod you’ll develop along the way 😉)

anxiety spiral

Practice Mindfulness and Exercise Your Ability to Keep Control

One of the primary benefits of meditation is something called “mindfulness.”

The concept of mindfulness is often extremely convoluted and misunderstood. It doesn’t have to tie into any sort of religion or spirituality. While practices such as Buddhism can take it down this road, accounting for its reputation, mindfulness in and of itself is a totally secular practice.

I think Dan Harris provides a great definition of mindfulness in his books on meditation when he says:

“Mindfulness is the ability to see what’s happening in your head at any given moment, so that you don’t get carried away by it.”

- Dan Harris -

In other words, learn how to identify and examine your thoughts for what they are. When you start to have ruminating thoughts that may lead to an anxiety spiral, just single out each thought and examine it. Be aware of the thought, acknowledge it, but don’t let yourself follow the thought down the rabbit hole. Just note its presence and let it pass.

If this sounds more easily said than done, you can learn more about meditation here, or click here to read my review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris, a book that really sells the benefits of meditation and provides a sound starting point for it.

Think Logically: Is There Something You can do About This?

When we start to succumb to rabbit hole anxiety, or catastrophic thinking, we often throw logic completely out the window.

For example:

  • You send a text to your crush.
  • He or she doesn’t respond in the first 3 minutes.
  • You start to worry that maybe they don’t like you anymore.
  • The anxiety spiral begins.
  • You start to assume that they must be talking to someone else instead.
  • Your catastrophic thinking leads you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.
  • You wonder if they think you’re unattractive. Maybe you’re not good enough.
  • Surely your crush doesn’t like you anymore. You’re having a full-on panic attack now.
  • You look at the time. Only 5 minutes have actually passed.

In this imaginary scenario, without personal investment in the situation, we can clearly see where the logic is failing. Obviously, 5 minutes is not enough time to jump to such irrational conclusions.

Yet, when it’s happening to us, it’s easy to forget what it means to think rationally.

So, when you start to slip into an anxiety spiral, try and take a minute to stop and think about the situation from a more logical viewpoint. Using the above example again: Your crush could be in the shower, driving, taking a nap, or just not looking at their phone right now.

The newly discovered freckle on your pinky finger is probably not skin cancer. You probably aren’t going to fail the test you studied so hard for. And your dog probably doesn’t hate you for accidentally stepping on its paw.

It's never a good idea to assume and hone in on the absolute worst-case scenario while alternative possibilities exist.

ruminating thoughts

Try to be More Positive

This next method is closely related to the previous one.

The idea is to just try and think more positively about the situation. This may seem like a bit of a fluffy, feel-good, boring piece of information, but give me a chance to elaborate.

As you plunge deeper and deeper into rabbit hole anxiety, it can get pretty scary. Severe anxiety and panic attacks are no joke, and they can be genuinely difficult to escape from.

If you get to this point, I highly suggest you try and shift your mindset towards the positive.

Why focus on the “worst-case scenario,” when worst really doesn’t come to worst all that often?

During a panic attack, for example, we often feel as though we are going to die or absolutely humiliate ourselves in front of everyone. But how often does this actually happen? How many times have you died from a panic attack? Oh, that’s right… 0 times.

Unless you’re actively being chased by a tiger or swimming toward Niagara Falls, chances are things are going to work themselves out one way or another.

Rather than focusing on the worst-case scenario, try and imagine the best-case scenario.

Rather than asking yourself questions such as “What if…” ask questions like, “What would I do if…” 

Focus on what you can do to improve the situation. If there is something you can do, you have nothing to worry about. If there’s nothing you can do, you have nothing to worry about. Either act or move on, it’s that simple. Don’t allow your thoughts to ruminate needlessly.

Ultimately, this state of worry is temporary.

Address Severe Anxiety

Sometimes when we start to lose control of rabbit hole anxiety, we end up much deeper than we’re comfortable with. Oftentimes, it can feel like we’ve reached a point of no return. When we’re suffering from severe anxiety, or panic attacks, it can feel as though all the previous methods are no longer an option.

If this ever feels like it’s the case for you, there are a number of ways you can regain control and eliminate severe anxiety and panic attacks.

For regaining control of a panic attack, I typically recommend 3 ABC steps:

  • Acknowledge Your Anxiety
  • Breathe
  • Control Your Thoughts

The first step is to acknowledge the nature of your anxiety. This involves much of what we’ve already discussed in the article: Understand what your anxiety is and what kind of anxiety you’re experiencing. Remember that anxiety is a passing state. It will not last forever, and you are not going to die. Think logically, focus on the positive, and remember all the other times you felt this way but wound up being fine.

The second step is to correct your breathing. During a panic attack breathing may feel difficult, irregular, or strained. Try and regulate your breathing with a regular pattern. 5 seconds in, 5 seconds held, and 5 seconds out typically works for me, but you can experiment a bit and see what’s most comfortable for you. If thinking about your breathing only makes things worse, practicing meditation can help tremendously here.

The third and final step is to regain control of your thoughts. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest way is to find a good distraction. Rabbit hole anxiety gives you tunnel vision on your fears, forcing you deeper and deeper into your own head. Healthy mental distractions can make a big difference to pull you out of this hole and to stop a panic attack quickly. This could be listening to music, talking to a friend, writing in a journal, going for a jog, etc.

These basic steps should work for most people, but if you want even more help, check out this article on how to stop a panic attack.

Hopefully you find this information helpful.

Good luck!

100+ Ways to Stop Panic
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About the Author

Years of personal experience with anxiety disorders and panic attacks have led me to devise some pretty creative ways to keep my anxiety in check. In the past, anxiety and panic attacks felt like something I'd have to live with forever. Nowadays, panic attacks are a distant memory for me, and I'm free to pursue passions like writing and traveling the world. Hopefully, the information on this website can help you achieve the same. I do all the writing here myself, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions!

Tyler Ellis

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