What is trending on the anxiety front?
Whether you are a 6-year-old worried about a math project mistakenly left at home, a 15- year-old who did not get a text back from their friend, or a 47- year- old woman who accidentally left her sneakers at the gym, catastrophizing is very common.
Catastrophizing is when thoughts are blown out of proportion. One worrisome thought or situation can cause overwhelming negative feelings leaving a person feeling anxious or upset. Sometimes in life there are catastrophes and it is normal to have a reaction, but
there are ways to cope.
There are exercises and thought processes that can help you manage catastrophes. This is where perspective comes in. Your thoughts and feelings do not equal facts and you have the ability to change your thoughts. It’s hard but doable. How?
Step #1: Practice self- awareness. Identify your thoughts and notice when you are catastrophizing.
Step #2: Reality check. Are these thoughts based on facts or am I overwhelmed right now? Are some of the facts true? Is it okay if some facts are true? What DO I have control over right now?
Step #3: Change self-talk. Can I say something different to myself?
See example below:
Negative Automatic Thought: “I am a terrible public speaker and I will make a stupid mistake when giving my presentation at work.” → This can leave you feeling defeated, negative, and dreading work.
New/ Reframed Thought: “I know the material I am presenting on very well, and I feel good about the amount I practiced.” → This new thought can leave you feeling neutral or positive.
*It is also helpful to practice mindfulness and press the reset button when it comes to noticing our thoughts.
For example, try this breathing exercise:
1. Put your hands on your stomach.
2. Take a deep breath in, hold it for 4 seconds, and blow out hard for 6 seconds like you are blowing out trick birthday candles.
3. Do that three times. Focus on taking large deep breaths so your belly moves.
Do you feel a bit lighter? How much time did that take? Can you do this exercise again later today?
Most of us have strengthened our negative self-talk to the point that it has become our automatic self-talk. It takes effort and practice to change and create new thought patterns. Scientists have proven(1) that humans can actively regulate their negative emotions and create new neural pathways in the brain by training themselves to think differently and more positively. This is due to the neural plasticity in our brains. So good news, you have more control over your brain than you thought! Now, time to practice.