How to Reign in Anxious Thoughts When Your Mind Catastrophizes Every Situation
We’re living in uncertain and somewhat scary times. Turn on the news at any moment and you’ll see something that might’ve sounded like it was from a movie ten years ago. Now, it’s reality. The state of the world has caused people to become more anxious than ever. Even the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an influx of mental health conditions as people catastrophize every situation and consider the worst-case scenario(s). Unfortunately, thinking this way only fuels anxiety further. It’s like adding gasoline to a fire, creating a vicious cycle of fear.
If you have anxious thoughts and your mind catastrophizes every situation, it’s important to know how to reign them in. Doing so can give you a sense of peace and freedom.
So, what can you do to manage your thoughts and stay focused on reality, rather than catastrophe?
One of the main reasons people tend to catastrophize things is that they let their minds wander. They focus on the “big picture” rather than the details of a situation, and that makes it easy to fill in the gaps with fear.
If you notice that you’re starting to think about the worst possible scenario, pause. Fill in those gaps with detail, instead. When you are as specific as possible about a situation – even a negative one – it’s harder to assume the worst because you’re reassuring yourself with facts. Furthermore, stop thinking of generalities in your life as black and white.
For example, if one area of your life isn’t going well, you might assume your entire life is ruined. That isn’t the case, and focusing on the details will help you realize that.
You Are Not Your Negative Thoughts
When you let catastrophic thoughts take over your mind for a long time, it’s easy to start to identify with them. But, those thoughts don’t define who you are. Keeping your identity separate from negative self-talk and worried thoughts will make a big difference.
While you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, try to think of yourself as an audience to them – a third party watching from the outside, rather than someone directly involved who has to do what those thoughts say. When you’re able to disconnect who you are from the negative things you’re thinking, you’ll have a much easier time reigning in your thoughts.
Self-care is getting a lot of attention these days. But, that’s because it’s important for those who want to deal with any mental health condition. In this case, two of the most important things you can do are getting enough sleep and moving your body. Without adequate sleep, it’s easy to become more irritable. Your mind won’t be able to focus the way it should, and it can start to wander and trigger more anxious thoughts. That, too, can create a vicious cycle. The more worried your thoughts are, the harder it will be to fall asleep.
You can help yourself by forming better sleep habits. Try to develop a nighttime routine and go to sleep around the same time each night. Avoid electronics before bed, and try things like journaling, meditation, or mindfulness to help relax your mind.
Exercising can help you to stay focused on the present. No matter when or how you do it, getting physical focuses your mind so your thoughts don’t wander to worst-case scenarios. Exercise is also a natural mood booster and can help to reduce stress.
While these tips and techniques can help, never feel like you have to deal with anxious thoughts on your own. If you’re still struggling, feel free to contact me to set up an appointment. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you manage run away thoughts that fuel anxiety, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.