Are you prone to catastrophising and getting stuck in negative thought loops?
What is catastrophising?
Catastrophising is the tendency to focus on the negative consequences of a situation rather than the positive, often magnifying the potential or observed negative outcomes. This leads to a heightened sense of fear and anxiety and a focus on the things that can go wrong, rather than visualising success.
How does catastrophising impact every day life?
Your mind is pre-programmed to prioritise your safety over your happiness. It is what has kept humans alive for so long, and is a very smart evolutionary tool. However, some of us are more prone to these negative thought loops than others. A lack of confidence in your ability to cope with the worst case scenario means that you constantly play it out in your mind to make sure that you are deeply prepared and rehearsed. Unfortunately, this means that you might always be drawn towards worst case scenario thinking and need to proactively develop the skills to recognise these thoughts and manage them effectively. Left unchecked, our catastrophising mind can increase our stress and fear, impact our health, and keep us playing small; each deeply contributing to a downward confidence cycle.
Although there is no single cause for catastrophising, past experiences and trauma can often lead us to learn to look for the danger in situations in order to try and keep us safe. Similarly, significant people in our lives can impact the way we view the world and can fail to model a positive outlook that we can take forward in our lives. We can make small changes over time to help us learn a more positive and healthy way to view situations.
When your brain starts going to the worst case scenario, try to find the gift or opportunity in that situation. An example might be, “I won’t know anyone when I get there and I’m just going to stand by myself all evening looking stupid”. Consider what the gifts or opportunities of that situation might be.
Do this for every worst case scenario your mind throws at you! You will be surprised how much better you feel.
Catastrophising is a form of emotional dysregulation, so create a regulation toolkit that you can pull out when you feel yourself spiralling. What things regulate you? Walking? Listening to music? Reading? Exercise? Mindfulness? Create a list of your top 3 things and use them when your mind starts to panic.
Download the worksheet below to help find ways of regulating and finding the gifts and opportunities, even in tricky situations.