By Linda Kelly, MSW, RSW
I used to call it “piling.” The books refer to it as “the Snowball Effect.”
It’s the sense that negative experiences continuously add up to make you feel completely hopeless and overwhelmed. Like a stack of assignments that piles up. Each one adds a little more stress, and eventually it gets so high that you feel you'll never get through it.
We spilled the coffee. Bam.
Someone makes a snide remark. there’s another one.
Car won’t start. ouch.
Dog decides to make a fort out of toilet paper.
You face another rejection, and it reminds you of all the other ones that have bothered you since the dawn of time and then it feels like life isn’t worth it and everything sucks…
This is when you have to stop. Breathe.
Notice what’s happening as the slippery slope of negativity takes over. Do you feel the pull?
Allow yourself to put those thoughts on the shelf for a moment or two while you appreciate the colours on the walls around you. Someone took the time to pick out those colours. Imagine how they must have looked, standing in front of the colour cards, comparing minute differences between shades, wondering which one was really going to transform the room. Think about the way the chair beneath you presses up against you. someone, maybe a thousand miles away from you, took the time to experiment with chairs to find out the best way to support the human body, and their effort is quietly working beneath you every day, allowing you to focus on what’s really important.
Snowballing or "piling" is a common cognitive distortion, and it’s one that we face when we are too focused on the bad stuff, when we haven’t gotten enough sleep, when we face too many disappointments all at once and don’t have adequate time to recover.
Next time it happens to you, force yourself to take the time to recover, because you can. you are in charge of you. Take 30 seconds, ground yourself, and things will seem far more manageable.
How you feel is within your control.
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