Do you find yourself thinking that the worst will happen? Does it feel like your entire life will be ruined if something goes wrong? Maybe you have a habit of always finding the worst possible scenario right away, even before anything happens.
It’s called catastrophic thinking and it means you have the tendency to always think the worst is going to happen without considering other possibilities. People who experience anxiety at overwhelming levels sometimes overestimate the likelihood that negative events will occur. This type of thinking plays a significant role in fueling anxiety and depression. However, by understanding how catastrophic thinking works and how to stop it, you can live a more positive and fulfilling life.
We all experience setbacks and disappointments in life. But with adversity comes the opportunity to build resilience and bounce back. Catastrophic thinking can often create a series of doom and gloom thought loops that can crush positivity. Suddenly, it might feel like one setback is the end of the world.
So, how can you stop yourself from coming up with such irrational predictions for your future before they eat away at your well-being and happiness?
Start With Self-Monitoring
Begin by keeping a log of the situations which cause you to think that ‘everything is ruined’. Then, note what happened in each case and why it bothered you enough for your catastrophic thinking brainwaves to start taking control.
Next time you feel overwhelmed by a setback, pause and reflect on the thought that just popped into your head. Is it true? Are you overly reactive to what's going on right now, or are you letting one lousy thing snowball into something more problematic?
Make sure you're not letting your negative thoughts run away from you! Ask yourself if it's possible that you're having these thoughts out of habit and what a more realistic thought might be.
For example, if you argue with your friend, then tell yourself, "It doesn't mean I can't be friends with this person again" rather than "I'll never have any more friends because of what I did.”
Watch Out For Triggers
The most effective way to stop catastrophic thinking is by acknowledging that it's a problem in the first place. Mindfulness exercises can provide tremendous relief by helping you become more aware of your thoughts. In terms of catastrophic ones, mindfulness can help you find the space between what's happening now and whatever bad outcome you assume will happen. All of the 'what ifs' can spiral out of control and quickly trigger catastrophic thinking.
If you do feel anxiety start to kick in, try to stay grounded in the present moment by asking yourself the following questions:
Catastrophic thinking can be a difficult habit to break because you might not even realize that it's happening. So, the more mindful you are of your behavior and thought processes, the easier it will be for you to stop catastrophic thinking in its tracks before feelings of anxiety or depression start taking over.
To help yourself better process unavoidable setbacks, try using acceptance. Accepting that something has happened doesn't mean you're happy about it, but it means that you understand and acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Don't Let Anxious Thinking Hold You Back
It's normal to have bad days. No one gets through life unscathed by misfortune or sadness. A bad day doesn't mean a bad life. Unfortunately, anxiety can hover over you like a dark cloud even on your brightest days.
Anxiety can also take a physical toll on your body, but the appropriate mental health care can assist you in regulating, calming, and easing your mind with effective and practical treatment methods. Dr. Flatow and his compassionate team are here to help you break free from symptoms of anxiety so you can move forward this year in health and happiness.
Reach out for support today.