Catastrophizing is the habit of blowing everyday things out of proportion. So, it can make a minor annoyance feel like the end of the world.
As a result, this tendency will cast a dark cloud over a pretty nice life.
Our imaginations like to take the most extreme routes. But, when you’re in the midst of a catastrophic thought, it seems very real. Your heart speeds up, your breathing changes, and you might panic. You could lash out at others or obsess about the catastrophe as if it really happened.
Everyone has negative thoughts, but it’s detrimental if it becomes your default response. It’s not your fault; it can be a natural reaction.
Examples of catastrophizing:
- Thinking that because someone didn’t answer their phone for a while, they must have been in a horrible accident.
- Believing that because your significant other is upset, they’re going to leave you.
- Your boss tells you to improve on something so you think they’re going to fire you.
- After a breakup, you might think no one will ever love you.
These thoughts aren’t true, and they can lead to depression.
When you don’t blow things out of proportion, you’ll be happier, calmer, and have a more enjoyable life.
Some people might think, “Well, in my situation, it’s different.” That’s true if you’ve been through life-threatening catastrophes or traumas. Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that makes you believe a normal experience will be or was horrific.
A few reasons to stop catastrophizing:
- Overreacting can cause relationship problems by assuming the worst about the other person.
- Catastrophic imaginary scenarios constantly replay in your mind, stealing the joy from the present moment.
- You might avoid opportunities because you’ve told yourself you’d mess it up somehow. You’ll miss out on enjoyable activities that you thought would be horrendous.
- It makes your outlook on life daunting and menacing.
So, as you can see, it’s beneficial to cut this out of your life as soon as possible!
Even if you’ve thought this way for your whole life, you can eliminate it. You don’t deserve to live like this anymore; there are steps you can take to crush this toxic mental habit.
Ways you can stop catastrophizing:
1. Find out if you’re catastrophizing by asking yourself some questions:
Only you know what triggers you to overreact to things. So, you’re the best person to ask why this keeps happening.
Ask yourself the following:
- If the worst happened, how would you handle it and be okay? Realize that either way, over time, you’d get your life back in order.
- What are some facts that prove the opposite of the thought is true?
- Are you jumping to conclusions? If so, redirect your attention to a fun hobby or call an optimistic friend.
2. Notice when you’re catastrophizing
If you want to eliminate a negative behavior, you need to know how to spot it first. All it takes is a little mindful, self-awareness. Basically, you need to pay closer attention to your thoughts. Especially, what you’re thinking before and while you’re deep in the trenches of an imaginary catastrophe.
Only now, you’re not going to let them have full reign over your mind. After you catch yourself about to spiral into imaginary chaos, put an end to it.
After some practice, you’ll be an expert at keeping your mind under control.
Even better if you replace those horrible visions with something more realistic and positive. Each time you do that, you’re teaching your brain to react better.
3. Take a breather from catastrophizing
When pessimism takes over your thoughts, sit back, let your shoulders relax, and take a deep calming breath. Oxygen will help you think clearly and relax your muscles.
So, close your eyes and breathe out any negativity and, focus only on the act of breathing. If you keep the same worrisome thoughts continue, try the following.
Go a step further and repeat a mantra, for example:
- “At this moment, I am at peace with myself and my life.”
- “I am resilient, and I can handle anything that happens. I’ll be okay no matter what.”
- “Life is working for me, and things work out for my benefit.”
- “I no longer worry about things I can’t control.”
- “I love and accept myself unconditionally.”
- “All is good in my world.”
4. Exercising stops catastrophizing
You might be frustrated because you have some pent-up energy. Working out could be what you need to feel relaxed again.
You don’t have to run a marathon; a few minutes of pushups, sit-ups, or squats will work. Taking a walk can work wonders because of the fresh air and sunshine.
5. Don’t assume anything
If something disappointing happens, don’t overgeneralize and assume it’ll always be that way. Focus more on your current life rather than trying to predict the future.
What are some things in your control that you could make better today?
6. Name at least 3 things you’re thankful for
When you redirect your attention from suffering to gratitude, your entire mindset changes, and you discover that things aren’t that terrible. You might realize that you’re pretty lucky!
7. Instead of catastrophizing take a nap
Research shows that people tend to think negative thoughts when they’re tired. Therefore, these terrible predictions may have been created by your sleepy brain.
You can either stew in misery or shut it down and take a nap. Wouldn’t it be better to give your mind a break and slip into dreamland for a while?
8. Journal about why you’re catastrophizing
It can be incredibly therapeutic to write out your worries. You can also regain a sense of control if you write about what you can do to improve your situation. Include the good things that are happening in your life today too.
9. Schedule a time to meet with a therapist
If the above tips don’t help, prioritize your well-being and call a therapist. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”; millions of people use it to cope with everyday things like stress or anxiety.
In 2020, 30% of Americans were brave enough to talk with a therapist. So, you are not alone.
However, many more suffered in silence because of the outdated belief that it was a sign of “weakness.” But therapy is certainly not something that “weak” people do! It takes courage.
Others wanted to see a therapist but couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, they don’t read Motivated Progress; luckily, you do. So now you know about plenty of options for free online therapy.
How easy is that? Now you can join millions of others and take this incredible step to improve your life.
Besides, no one has to know about it if you don’t want them to. It’s none of their business; this is about you.
10. Imagine the best-case scenario
Name some positive things that could come from this situation. Then, focus or even obsess on this bright possibility, and you’ll increase the chances it becomes a reality.
In the end, catastrophizing can distort your perspective on life and make things seem worse than they are. But you can triumph over it with the above tips.
Now, you’ll realize when you start jumping to conclusions, and you’ll overpower those thoughts of doom with more realistic visions.
People will love being around you when you’re optimistic and carefree. But more importantly, you’ll enjoy your own company after you defeat the habit of catastrophizing.
You deserve to look forward to the future and live a happy life. So, make sure you give yourself the gift of our free Motivated Progress app! Much love, and let me know your thoughts about catastrophizing in the comments!