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How To Stop Catastrophizing: 5 Simple Techniques

Catastrophizing, probably something we can all relate to. Catastrophizing, to define it for you, is basically an irrational thought you have about something and you believe the situation you are in or are being faced with is much worse than it actually is.

 

Why is this bad?

Well, this can be bad for a few major reasons, here they are:

  • They can lead to illogical actions
  • Anxiety or panic attacks can occur from your catastrophic thoughts

The list could on, but those two should give you the gist of what catastrophizing can do and how it can lead to worse outcomes than if you hadn’t been catastrophizing.

 

But how do you identify when you are catastrophizing?

Well, this can be extremely difficult to do to say the least. Identifying that you are overreacting is probably the least of your worries in the moment, but being able to collect your thoughts and emotions while you are going through a ‘catastrophe’ is a valuable skill that will help a lot with implementing the techniques listed in this post.

Identifying you are catastrophizing isn’t exactly identifying it per se (I know that doesn’t make sense, but bear with with me). Instead, you just need to know if you are reacting in an extreme way to a situation. Whether it’s rational or irrational doesn’t matter (yet), because you will only be able to tell after the fact and everything has passed (which the techniques listed in this post will help with making it pass). So if you are facing a big situation and are reacting in a big way, then this is a good step to being able to start the process of discovering if the issue at hand is as big as you think it is.

 

Now that you have an idea of what catastrophizing is, why it can be detrimental to you, and how you can identify it, how exactly can you stop or correct it? There are multiple techniques, and some will work better for some than others. So I’ve created the following list of 5 techniques to stop catastrophizing and correct your catastrophic thinking. Find which ones work for you, and start implementing them next time you realize you are catastrophizing!

 

 

1. Just Sleep on it

I know, I know. This one can be hard to do for many of you. The thought of sleeping while a ‘crisis’ (at least in your catastrophic thoughts) is occurring sounds impossible. But if you can manage, try to sleep on it.

No matter how big of a situation you’re in and you can’t seem to fall asleep, I’ve got a trick for you..

Get as tired as you possibly can, whether that means staying up for awhile or working out a lot, and then lay in bed and crash for as long as you can.

Whether you sleep for 10 minutes or 10 hours, it will let your mind reset and process some thoughts. Then when you wake up, you might realize that everything is okay because you are still breathing and fine (or not)!

 

2. Get Outsider Input

Getting input from someone entirely outside your situation can be a great way to see if your issue is as big as you think it is.

If you explain what is going on and what you are feeling about it all and they think it is not as big of a deal as you are thinking it is, you can be sure that you are probably just catastrophizing the situation. Hopefully outsider input will help calm you down and help you realize whatever it is you are going through isn’t as bad as you think.

 

3. Use History As a Guideline

Have you encountered similar situations in the passed? If so, you can probably predict the outcome to be similar as last time. Using the past and their outcomes as a guideline is a great way to predict the future.

But don’t let your history repeat itself anymore, you better learn from this experience! 🙂

 

4. Think About Your Future

Similar to the previous technique in terms of time, thinking about your future is a great way to determine if the outcomes of your situation will benefit or hurt your plans and dreams for the future.

Think deeply about this one, because although the future is unknown we can often get a rough idea of where the outcomes of the situation we face is going to lead us. Then from there, react according to get the desired outcome that will best help (or least hinder) your future plans and dreams.

 

5. Define The Worst Possible Outcome

Discovering the worst possible outcome is a great way to realize the seriousness of your situation. If the worst thing that might happen isn’t even seem that bad to you, then you know you’ve probably been overreacting.

Furthermore, if your worst possible outcome is something that is bad to you, then you probably are indeed facing a tough situation.

 

It is important to be true with yourself with this technique. If you aren’t real with yourself on the possible outcomes, then you might alter what you think is the worst possible outcome to either; 1) make you feel better by making it seem not as bad as it actually is or; 2) make the possible outcomes even worse then they will actually be.

Here’s the technique from this technique:

Be truthful to yourself, it can never hurt!

 


 

To Sum it All Up

Making a catastrophe out of things in life is never a good thing, it really isn’t. It leads to increased stress, anxiety, and other debilitating emotions.

The real kicker is that it could all be avoided if you just stood back for a second and analyzed the situation to see how bad it truly is.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes life does throw some terrible things our way. But the critical skill that you need to learn to overcome catastrophizing over every little situation and not the actual important things is something everyone needs to master. It will probably cut years of your life due to added stress if you don’t and keep such bad reactions going, so I urge you to work on it!

 

I’d have to say, the most important step to all of this is being able to identify when you might be catastrophizing. Being able to really think about it and see if it is possible that you are just overreacting. From there, you can use any of my tips to get to the real answer you are looking for; the true extent to which the issue you are facing goes.

 

Have any other tips on how to stop catastrophizing? Let me hear them down below, I’m sure we could all use some extra help!

2 Responses
  • Verity M
    July 15, 2016

    Great post, Dustyn! Depending on what you are catastrophizing about I have also found that acknowledging that there is nothing you can do about it now and then bringing your focus back to all that is well and good now can help salvage a day (or days) which I think is important because coming from a calmer and clearer perspective often changes how we respond to or resolve the catastrophe. This has been a major learning point for me.

    I think the word ‘catastrophizing’ is great and very apt!

    • Dustyn
      July 20, 2016

      Great point!

      I agree that what you described, also kind of like “collecting yourself” is a really good and healthy way to gain perspective on things after the fact.

      Awesome comment, thanks for that! 🙂

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