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Work spiraling OUT of control? Spiral IN.

"Stress overload makes us stupid. Solid research proves it. When we get overstressed, it creates a nasty chemical soup in our brains that makes it hard to pull out of the anxious depressive spiral." ~ Gail Sheehy

I've seen the workplace jungle in times of change.

While adaptation to a new world is key, it's not easy for most. Confusion. Industry turmoil. Whirling twisters of process chaos. Spinning hamster wheels of activity. Fuzzy vision. Failure of trust. Manipulators. Leadership switcheroos. You name it.

And the greater companies expand, the higher the potential for alignment to fall apart. Leaving you in the midst of debris trying to sort through it all.

Impact on the team?

Typically fear. To the point that stumbling off the hamster wheel into a rolling tumble feels like a better option than continuing to run aimlessly.

"Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins." ~ Charles Stanley

Facing Fear

Finding yourself on a negative spiral of shock > disbelief > anger > blame > self-doubt and dejection? Experts suggest you stop for a moment. Disengage. Go for a walk.

“When we are in a stressful situation, our "fight-or-flight" limbic brain takes over. Unfortunately this is the part of the brain which runs on autopilot, resulting in cloudy thinking when it is engaged. By walking away from the situation, disengaging from it, we can deactivate our limbic brain. In doing so, we re-engage our conscious thinking mind, giving us the mental power to solve the stressful situation.” [Melissa Heisler]

“Emotional energy is contagious. Being around someone out of control can negatively affect your own mood and clarity. Remove yourself from a toxic situation.” [Melissa Heisler]

How to Help?

Some suggest naming the emotion. Figuring out the event that occurred right before you began experiencing the emotions. And then asking yourself, "What is the source of this feeling?"

There are always thoughts behind emotions. Sort through lies and truths by asking yourself "What do my thoughts say about the world?" and "What do my thoughts say about myself?"

"You can make bad choices and find yourself in a downward spiral or you can find something that gets you out of it." ~ Ray LaMontagne

Learn to Spiral In

But consider this. Instead of seeing the act of spiraling out or downward as the issue—stop. Then reverse yourself right into the heart of the spiral.

Why? Because spirals have two directions. They have found their way into every culture as cosmic symbols, as representations of iteration and progress, as images designed for contemplation and as sources of beauty.

Journeying inward on a spiral reveals connections between space and time.

"In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free." ~ Vladimir Nabukov

Universal Spiral Symbols

After 5 million years of evolution where human ancestors ate shellfish and discarded shells, we see two changes around 50,000+ years ago (1) the collection of shells made into necklaces to be used as currency and (2) sudden fascination with carving or painting spiral images in rocks.

What changed? Self-awareness and consciousness.

Through the ages globally, we've seen images of spirals—from Ancient Native American petroglyphs to corporate logos. Examples include double spirals seen in Stone Age art to the interlocking spirals of the Chinese Yin Yang symbol to the patterns of Maori tattoos, triple spirals on Celtic crosses, and the Islamic arabesque.

You'll find spirals in Nazca Lines earthworks that can only be seen from the air in Peru, Buddhist triple spiral, Hindu spiritual texts, Persian architecture, Japanese rock gardens, ancient Minoans symbolism in Greece, Australian aboriginal paintings, Mesopotamian jewelry and African ram's horn art.

The spiral shows up often in nature—in hurricanes and tornados, fossils, in the growth pattern of sunflower seeds, in the shape of ram's horns and nautilus shells, in the growing tips of Fiddlehead ferns, and, as a helix, the shape of the DNA molecule.

Meaning Behind Spirals
Spirals evoke themes of balance, progress, direction, initiation, centering, expanding, awareness, connection, journeying and development.
  • Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist, said "the spiral is an archetypal symbol that represents cosmic force"

  • Spirals been associated with the cycles of time and nature; the seasons; growth, death, and then rebirth

  • In ancient Britain, spirals represented the Mother Goddess as the doorway to life

  • In mathematics, a logarithmic spiral has been associated with the Golden Ratio or rules of proportion (1.618) defining beauty in art and nature

  • Celtic enthusiasts believe the spiral was a mind-altering creative process

  • Others believe spirals are the evolutionary process of learning and growing

  • In product development, the spiral model demonstrates continual iteration of feature development and processes leading to product release

Engage a Spiral

I've walked a Native American labyrinth—a thirteen-ring spiral pathway bordered by rocks in the Red Rock mountains in the Western U.S.. Taking almost 30 minutes to journey in step-by-step, and the same time to journey out.

Each step you feel a weight lifted. Each breath becomes lighter. Your senses sharpen and the winds turn to life that invigorates you. With each ring, you free yourself of thoughts, returning to a center, facing clarity. To exit, you spiral back out returning to the world again. It's a metaphor for the path in our lives.

Journeying into a labyrinth is seen as similar to coloring mandalas—they help us to get lost in the grandeur of creating. To launch our dreaming mind into realms of awareness.

Ever dance in circles? For many cultures, the spiral spinning was a way to connect with the universe.

Life doesn't proceed in a straight line. We seem to pass the same point over and over again but from a different perspective each time.

So next time you're spiraling out of control, know that same spiral can center you too. If you're open to it. Keep on the path to learning and growing instead of leaping off. Reverse your direction.

"The human mind always makes progress, but it is a progress made in spirals." ~Madame de Stael


Photographs: (1) Golden section spiral embedded within a design by Nikki Zalewski (2) Public sources (3) Taken by Joanne Markow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (4) Work by Fuschia Sirois, J. Brew, and public sources (5) Taken by Joanne Markow at a Labyrinth in the Red Rock Mountains of Utah.

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