Decatastrophizing (DW#492)

positive thinking Nov 13, 2018
When we notice the catastrophic trains of thought that we have been discussing, we can challenge ourselves:

1)    To consider other possible outcomes

They do not have to be super positive either. They can be positive, neutral or even mildly negative – just not catastrophic. There is a vast difference between something being unpleasant, unwanted and catastrophic. Failing an exam, while unwanted and even distressing, does not doom anyone to eternal failure. Can you see that?

2)    To increase our perception of our ability to cope.

Life seldom throws things at us beyond our capacity to cope. If we remind ourselves that our ability to cope with life’s challenges has been pretty stellar so far, we can come up with a plan B and a plan C if the worst does come to materialize. When our brain becomes engaged in thinking about possible solutions and options, the attention moves away from the catastrophe itself and towards a more productive way of thinking.

3)    To remind ourselves of the resources that we have at our disposal

We do not have to go through challenging times (or even a true catastrophe) all on our own. If the worst does come to pass, who can we call on? What resources do we have that would help us cope? Resources include friends and loved ones, skills or abilities we have, and methods or techniques that have helped us cope in other situations. Questions like these change our train of thought from problems to solutions.

4)    To ask ourselves what we would tell a friend who was catastrophizing

Most of us are REALLY good at giving advice to others but we tend to hit brick walls and blind spots when we ourselves are dealing with challenging situations. An effective way to get around this tendency is to imagine that a friend is coming with the same problem. What would we tell this friend to help them cope better?

5)    To ask ourselves what we need or would like to hear in order to feel reassured

Only we know what makes us feel relaxed rather than anxious. What thoughts or words settle you down when you are nervous? In what tone? In whose voice? You can say these aloud to yourself to help reassure yourself. Audible and reassuring self-talk in situations like this really does help. Try it!

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