5 signs you’re in self-destruct mode, and how to get out of it

Written by Ellen Scott

It can be hard to know when you’re getting in your own way and even harder to make a change. Wellbeing expert Sophie Elliott reveals how to spot the signs. 

Ever feel like everything’s going wrong? That you’re stuck, you’re in your flop era, and you can’t pinpoint why? Sorry to get all Anti-Hero by Taylor Swift on you, but have you considered that it’s you, hi, you’re the problem, it’s you? 

Don’t panic, we’re not here to play the blame game. We all get in our own way sometimes, and it can be tricky to notice it’s happening, let alone start sorting the pattern out. Recognising when you’re in self-destruct mode is the first step, and wellbeing and reiki expert Sophie Elliott is here to help. 

“Every now and again we can feel like we’ve hit a wall in our lives,” Elliott tells Stylist. “Our mind begins to convince us we can’t move forward – making impulsive decisions, avoiding confronting our feelings, unable to acknowledge any positives – forming a sense of helplessness and meaninglessness. These feelings can snowball into a vicious mode of bad habits and self-destructive patterns, leading to a disconnect between the body and the mind. 

“Being self-destructive refers to engaging in behaviours or actions that harm or damage oneself. They can also include negative patterns of thought and behaviours that harm one’s mental and emotional wellbeing, such as self-sabotage or self-criticism, being stuck in negative self-talk, thinking the worst of every situation and toxic perfectionism.”

Some warning signs that you’re in self-destruct mode are…

Signs you’re in self-destruct mode

You’re neglecting self-care

“This can include not eating or sleeping enough and letting go of taking time out for you,” says Elliott. “Notice when you are isolating and losing connection to the people around you. This can include withdrawing from friends and family, avoiding social situations or spending excessive amounts of time alone.”

You’ve got a total lack of motivation

You know there are things you could and should be doing, whether it’s to feel better, to get closer to your goals or just to wade through admin, but you just. can’t. be. bothered. 

This is a solid sign that you’re in self-destruct mode. 

You’re doing things that make you feel rubbish

You’re staying up late, endlessly scrolling social media, eating food that makes you sluggish and feeling guilty about it all. You know none of this is helpful, healthy behaviour, and yet you keep doing it… then beating yourself up for it. It’s a nasty cycle. 

You’re picking fights 

Do you find yourself picking holes in friendships and relationships – even at work? Self-destruct mode can see you sabotaging relationships and acting impulsively. You might get irritated by nothing or blow up at the smallest issue. 

You’ve become super pessimistic

Self-destruct mode can manifest in an always-negative outlook. You always see how things could go wrong, but never the potential for them to be great. This can prevent you from doing stuff that’s beneficial for you, like going out and socialising or applying for a job you’d be amazing at.

How to get out of self-destruct mode

OK, so you’re nodding along to a lot of the above signs. Now what? Elliott shares some tips to help you climb out of this hole. 

Give space for suppressed emotions to surface

“Self-destructive behaviours can be triggered by previous experiences of loss, anger, fear or sadness that we have suppressed and buried deep, instead of confronting,” Elliott explains. “These suppressed emotions may resurface in the form of seemingly erratic behaviour, lashing out as your mind’s way of self-preservation. 

“As uncomfortable as it may feel, you must allow these emotions to surface and allow yourself to observe and experience them without getting too wrapped up in them or letting them dictate your actions. Acknowledge the old emotions and thoughts as they pass through you as how you once felt, and then let them go.”

Explore journaling

Elliott says: “Journaling is a very therapeutic practice of self-expression. The simple act of recording your gut feelings, thoughts or instincts about experiences in your life allows you to delve deep into yourself and work on healing from within. 

“Even as little as 10 minutes of journaling a day will help with confronting self-destructive patterns. Many of us find it extremely difficult to be truly open and honest about how we feel with others, but by writing it down, you are getting the same release of pent-up feelings without the worry of another’s judgment. 

“This allows you to clear your mind, identify and begin to amend any bad habits you find yourself falling into.”

Learn to be in the present moment

So much of feeling a little better mentally lies in bringing your consciousness to the here and now, rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. 

“Learning to immerse yourself in the present moment helps you to understand your emotions without having to act upon them, keeping you grounded and increasing your resilience in the face of adversity,” Elliott recommends. “Going outside and spending time in nature, meditating, performing breathing techniques or trying holistic practices like reiki or crystal healing are all ways of reconnecting yourself with the present. 

“Through this, you will achieve clarity of the causes of your self-destructive patterns, which will allow you to let go of the past, and clear a path for your future.”

Seek professional support 

Sometimes you’ll need some help getting out of self-destruct mode, and there should be absolutely no shame in that. Don’t feel like you have to do this work alone – talking with a therapist can help you recognise unhealthy patterns and guide you through unlearning them. 

Sophie Elliott is a wellbeing and Reiki expert and founder of Present-Beings.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and services.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]. In a crisis, call 999.

Image: Getty

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