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6 Ways to Stop Catastrophizing

As a therapist specializing in anxiety, trauma, and pain, I witness a lot of Catastrophizing when it comes to my clients and how they see themselves in the world. Their view is often slanted and even when they see possibilities for others to heal and move on they often have a difficult time seeing this possibility for themselves.

The act of Catastrophizing is a thought based activity. It is often accompanied by obsessive negative thoughts. You focus on an event and make the assumption that the outcome of that event is going to be negative. For example, you may look at your spouse and worry that they don’t love you anymore. Then, when you see them smiling at someone, you jump to the conclusion that they don’t love you anymore (the catastrophe). With that, you imagine that if they don’t love you anymore then you must be absolutely unlovable.

In many ways, Catastrophizing is a way to control your environment and the people around you. If you believe your spouse is going to leave you then you imagine they aren’t in love with you anymore and as you do that you push them away to preserve your belief. In this example, when the spouse does eventually leave, you get to be right and preserve your beliefs, opinions, and judgments about what relationships are like and, more importantly, who you are in the world.

Below are six tips for overcoming Catastrophizing and the thought patterns that create this particular form of misery.

1) Mindfulness – Simply becoming aware of the obsessive thoughts can help minimize their impact.
2) Laughter – Taking a moment to recognize this extreme form of thinking and consciously laughing at it can reduce the impact of the thought and even have the reverse effect of creating positive chemicals (oxytocin, serotonin, etc.) into the body.
3) Thought Substitution – Since Catastrophizing is a mind game anyway, what would it be like to think a “counter thought” every time a Catastrophizing thought pops into your head? What if you thought about something like, “Cucumbers and Berries” instead? As silly as that sounds you would be consciously choosing a new reality that’s outside of the pain thought and creating a different choice for yourself.
4) Alternative Outcomes – As someone who catastrophizes, you’re good at creating stories. Consider creating a second, or even, third possible outcome to the catastrophe that is fun, possible, and maybe even funny.
5) Say Stop – To that voice making up this entire story say loudly and clearly, “STOP”! You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
6) Breathe – An interesting thing happens when we’re in this Catastrophizing state of being, we barely breathe. Our bodies tense up and everything gets tight. Take a few conscious deep breathes and notice those voices quieting down. My favorite breath pattern is to breathe in on a count of five, hold for a count of five, and exhale to a count of five.
7) Cast a Gratitude Spell (Bonus) – We all know that being grateful can shift us away from fear. In fact, even science tells us that when we focus on gratitude our health and wellbeing improves. With that in mind, check out this awesome video on casting your own gratitude spell with my friend the white witch, Patti Negri. https://www.createyourhealth.com/wiccan-healing-the-shaman-of-europe/