How To Stop Catastrophizing And Assuming The Worst

How To Stop Catastropizing

“The day you stop worrying will be the first day of your new life; anxiety takes you in circles, trust in yourself and become free.” Leon Brown

My earliest memories of my life seem to have one commonality I’m either experiencing acute anxiety or catastrophizing.

Once, on a holiday, I was left with my eldest sister to look after me. My mother promised me she would only be gone for half an hour. I sat in the kitchen and watched the clock ticking relentlessly.

At 40 minutes in, I was grief-stricken my mother had obviously been in a terrible accident and had died. I was now missing the most important person in my life.

Of course, she returned over two hours later thanks to the traffic and could not understand why I had once again riled myself up into such a state of anxiety.

Until recently, my life revolved around such chronic catastrophizing so often that I ended up avoiding people and situations.

I also procrastinated dealing with people I shouldn't avoid – my father-in-law, the gas man, the bank, and that one client with whom I just couldn’t get things right.

It seemed so simple to everyone else so black and white you just get on with life and try to make the best of it for yourself. However, in my mind, every situation was a potential minefield, causing me great upset and worry.

Before I knew it, the most memorable moments in my life were punctuated by all-consuming fear and anxiety over things that I now see were absolutely nothing to worry about.

When you catastrophize, you create a nightmare scenario in which absolutely everything could implode, explode and generally make your life as you know it intolerable and irreparable.

It’s a masochistic tendency that goes hand-in-hand with chronic anxiety, making you constantly fearful that something terrible is just around the corner or that something innocuous will morph into dire situation.

How Catastrophizing Hinders Your Health, Happiness, and Productivity.

When you catastrophize, you feel adrenaline, shock and despair, all part of anxiety.

As your brain conjures up the worst possible eventualities, you react physiologically and psychologically, as if the terrible thing you imagine were really happening.

Blood pressure increases, heart rate rises, blood drains from your face and other extremities, and you go into fight-or-flight mode.

If you are catastrophizing several times a day, this process not only drains your mind of any mental energy, but it’s also physically exhausting.   

This negativity you constantly focus on and perpetuate is not just tiring -- it's debilitating. When you're under pressure and  need to perform and take in vital information, you can't pay attention to the tasks at hand if your thoughts are hurtling toward an imagined catastrophe.

Distraction and panic set in, and before you know it, you’ve missed important information. This can happen in your workplace, in the doctor's office, in a performance situation, or even while driving.

You may also avoid taking risks and putting yourself out there for opportunities in your personal or professional life, as your anxiety and worry are too overwhelming to allow you to take action.

Catastrophizing not only hinders your daily happiness, productivity, and achievement, but it can also have long-term effects on your mental health.

Your self-esteem can suffer when you routinely believe the world is always crumbling around you. You believe you lack the coping skills to manage the potential catastrophes you imagine and feel helpless and hopeless.

Your subconscious tends to absorb your insecurities and reveal them in a self-critical way. This could materialize into catastrophizing depression or an ongoing anxiety disorder.

If you don't take action to deal with your tendency to catastrophize, this bad habit will turn into an anxious addiction, holding you back from enjoying life and finding peace of mind.

Want to learn how to stop catastrophizing? Here are 7 actions to practice:

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