How to stop catastrophising:
Things go wrong. It’s a fact of life. Mind you, things go well too – that’s another fact of life. For those of us prone to catastrophising, that’s a side of the equation that’s all to often dismissed. This article will give you some steps that show you how to stop catastrophising
Here are some common examples that I come across:
“I’ll stand up in front of all those people and freeze. I know I will. And then they’ll lose all respect for me and I’ll lose my job and I won’t be able to pay the mortgage and we’ll lose the house…”
“I keep worrying that my partner’s going to walk out on me and it makes me so anxious that I keep sabotaging any chance of happiness we’ve got. I’ll end up alone and no-one’ll ever love me”
“If I don’t pass this qualification I’ll never get promoted and my career’s going to end before it’s even got started. I’ll never make anything of myself”
This magnification of potential risks into their worst possible outcome is a symptom of underlying anxiety issues. A key difference between anxiety and catastrophising is that anxiety is a protective response encouraging us to take preventative action. Catastrophising, on the other hand, is just our imagination running riot, often taking us to a point where we stop functioning.
Just as everyone is anxious from time to time, everyone catastrophises from time to time. In my opinion, it’s a consequence of our imaginative brains. The problem arises when we become anxious about the catastrophising and end up in a spiral where our anxiety response immediately jumps to the worst possible outcome and we catastrophise everything we can.
It’s a really debilitating way to be.
Here’s how to stop catastrophising: 6 tips that really help
- Acknowledge that bad things happen: Life is full of challenges as well as good and bad days. Just because one day is bad does not mean all days will be bad.
- Recognise when thoughts are irrational: Catastrophising often follows a distinct pattern. It often starts with a thought, like “I’m hurting today.” The thought expands with worry and anxiety, “The pain is only going to get worse,” or “This hurting means I’ll never get better.” The more you learn to recognise these thoughts, the more you’re better equipped to handle them.
- Saying “stop!”: To cease the repetitive, catastrophic thoughts, you may have to say out loud or in your head “stop!” or “no more!” These words can keep the stream of thoughts from continuing and help you alter change the course of your thinking.
- Think about another outcome: Instead of thinking about a negative outcome, consider a positive one or even a less-negative option. I often recommend that my clients think about what the exact opposite outcome would be. This way you have two equally unlikely extreme outcomes, one very bad and one very good. The actual outcome is probably somewhere in between the two!
- Practice self-care: Catastrophic thoughts are more likely to take over when you’re tired and stressed. Getting enough rest and engaging in stress-relieving techniques, such as exercise, meditation, and journaling, can all help you feel better.
- Seek professional help: Sometimes the underlying anxiety, stress or depression doesn’t leave you with enough reserves to deal with it all on your own. If this is you, there are many well qualified therapists, like me, that you can work with.
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