You live with a level of pain, fatigue, or another symptom on an ongoing basis and try to live your life as best you can. You work a full day and because you want to get a piece of work done and do well at it, you may stay late fairly regularly.

Or you’re at home, your other half offers to help you with a task but you say no because you don’t want to impinge on them. You think you should be able to sort things out yourself. But you’re tired, so tired, and maybe in pain.

You do this day after day, month after month, feeling like you’re just going around and around. You don’t feel any kind of balance and wonder if this is it, is this how your life is meant to be now.

Living in a vicious circle. Drawn by B Babcock 2015

Living in a vicious circle. Drawn by B Babcock 2015

No, it doesn’t. It can change.


I found in research I did on coaching people with long-term conditions that the key lies in the story you tell yourself day in day out. The story often highlights a psychological vicious circle you are getting yourself into.

Don’t worry, we all do this. Every. Single. Person. So you are not alone.

But becoming aware of your vicious circle is the starting point because awareness gives you choice. You can then decide to do something different, stay the same, or something else.

This is important. Vicious circles create stress and stress can exacerbate a condition’s symptoms. And living with worsening symptoms doesn’t help you to enjoy life and can inhibit you from doing what you really want to do.

From the research I did, this is what I learned about how to become aware of any vicious circles you may be getting yourself into.

1. Tell your story

Think of a situation that recurs where you feel particularly tired, in pain, in a low mood, or are asking yourself ‘is this it?’ practically every time the situation happens. Pretend to be the narrator of your story and tell yourself what is happening to you, what and people around you are doing, saying, thinking, feeling.

2. Record your story

Tell your story again, but more slowly this time. Tell it step by step, and record it. You can write it down, record yourself telling it, or draw it. This is important. Because in your story lies the key that will unlock you from it and help you to write the new story you want for yourself. Here is an example.

Example of a vicious circle. Created by B Babcock 2015

Example of a vicious circle. Created by B Babcock 2015

3. Listen to your story intently

Concentrate on it. Are you noticing words or phrases you are using over and over again, like ‘should’, ‘I wish’, or ‘if only they would’? Or patterns of behaviour, for example, you come up with things you can do to change your situation, but then you find reasons for not making those changes? Highlight all this and whatever else seems important to you in some way.

Also notice the sensations you feel in your body as you read through your story. This is very valuable information as many times if we are unhappy, in pain, tired, fed-up, it signals itself in our body first. Note this down too.

Using the example above, point 3 came up as something important, then points 5, 6 and 7.

4. Identify your key to change

The key lies in your story. Drawn by B Babcock 2015.

The key lies in your story. Drawn by B Babcock 2015.


This is about finding the key(s) to unlock yourself form your story. In your vicious circle, look at what you highlighted or noted as you intently listened. Let’s go back to our example so I can show you what I mean.

Point 3 is important as the person is hoping others will tell them what they can do. But actually, they can give themselves the permission to go home or take a break.

Point 5 mentions that going home would be ‘giving in’ to the condition, but what if going home to rest was actually the best thing you could do in that situation to look after yourself? What if ‘giving in’ was actually taking control?

Points 6 and 7 meant that the person would stay late at work, and get lots done, but was wearing themselves out in the process, which meant they couldn’t use their day off to do things they enjoyed and the tiredness built up over time.

With all this new awareness, a new story was written and enacted, which resulted in a decrease in symptoms including pain. In turn, this resulted in a lowering of pain medication. And all of this was in their control. Talk about feeling major personal accomplishment! 🙂


Does any of this sound familiar? What vicious circles do you get yourself into? And how do you get yourself out of it? Feel free to share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.


If you think you might be stuck in a vicious circle and want a supportive and objective partnership to help you break out of it, the 4 session coaching package could be for you. Have a look and get in touch for a no obligation chat to see if I can help.


If you like what you’ve read, follow my blog and share this post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or email using the icons below. In the next few blogs, I will continue focusing on themes related to taking control of the mind and more so you can live more easily with the impact of a serious illness or long-term condition (whether you are the one affected or are the carer). Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015

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