What is catastrophic thinking? It’s a distorted thought – not a reflection of reality – that can result in having anxiety. Feeling anxious can undermine your ability to feel good about life or yourself. And when you catastrophize, you magnify the importance of the situation and its implications. Imagining things that are out of proportion to reality causes you to suffer from “what if” thinking.
Here are some ways you can reverse the tendency to think destructive thoughts:
Self-monitor to increase your self-awareness
Do this by noticing how you feel. Are you tense? If so, close your eyes and scan where you feel tension in your body. Breathe into those areas and slowly exhale, reducing the pressure. Then, notice if you feel anxious. Ask yourself, “What negative things am I experiencing right now? Is there a threat in the room with me?”
Put your experience into perspective
Counter feelings of anxiety by adopting a reasonable perspective about what’s going on. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What evidence do I have for this thought?
- What would I tell someone else who was having this kind of thought?
- Is it possible I’m having this thought just out of habit?
- What might be some alternative explanations?
Reframe your thoughts
Remind yourself that just because you’re in pain at this moment doesn’t mean you’ll be in pain every day. Everything changes, including your level of suffering. Connect with some of the things in your life that are constant, that you have always relied on to make you feel better, more yourself or more realistic in your thinking. Remember that “whatever happens, I can cope.” This statement reminds you of your own inner resources and gives you the determination to meet the challenges in life.
Stay in the present moment
Tell yourself, “It’s not happening now.” Your “what if” thinking is a future concern, but it’s not happening at this time and you are safe. You can then think of ways to mitigate a concern with various options.
Identify a couple things you can do to make some changes
Ask yourself, “How could I best prepare for this event?” Planning your action steps relieves your anxiety.
Access your power
You can put an end to catastrophic thinking by addressing the helplessness it can create. Put your action steps into play. Do the first thing on the list – something that recalls your power. An action that helps others can make you feel good.