4 Ways to Challenge Catastrophizing and Reduce Stress

If you’ve been struggling to get rid of catastrophic thinking, it’s probably time to look at it from a different perspective. It’s hard to completely get rid of thought patterns that are deeply ingrained within your mind due to your unique personal experiences.

This is why I am encouraging you to engage in a battle with those irrational thoughts that find themselves taking over your mind. I can’t tell you how to stop catastrophizing, but I can help you discover a few ways to challenge it and reduce stress.

What is Catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing is a big, fancy word for perceiving a situation as much worse than it actually is. These situations can be as small as dropping your favorite mug or as big as having an unfavorable encounter with someone at work. Both of these situations aren’t fun, but neither of them should be enough for you to feel like your day, or even your life, is ruined.

I get it. Everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes life deals you a crappy hand, but there are much better ways to respond than throwing in the towel. It starts with having enough self-awareness to know when you are catastrophizing. After that, you can work on challenging those pesky distorted thoughts so you can lead a less stressful life.

4 Tips to Challenge Catastrophizing and Reduce Stress

Catastrophic thinking can manifest in many different ways, but here are a few of the most common examples of catastrophic thinking:

  • Jumping to conclusions without any valid evidence
  • Seeing situations as black-or-white; polarized thinking
  • Deflecting your actions or shortcomings onto someone else
  • Feeling like you aren’t good enough to achieve your goals
  • Saying overgeneralized statements like, “I can never do anything right!” or “Nothing in my life goes right!”

You may not realize that you do or say any of this, but I’m pretty sure everyone has had these thoughts at some point or another. Feelings aren’t linear, so it’s okay to feel like everything is in shambles. Your feelings are always valid, but that doesn’t mean that you have to revel in those feelings – and it definitely doesn’t mean they represent the truth.

1. Learn How to Spot Catastrophic Thinking

The moment you feel like your world is crashing in, remember how you were feeling before that. Even if you are feeling completely hopeless right now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You have to fully believe that your life is worth more than whatever hardship you’re going through right now.

Your brain has a way of tricking itself into thinking there’s no way out. Similar to retraining a dog who’s making puddles (you know what kind) in all of the wrong places, it takes time to train your brain out of its behaviors that have grown to be instinctive. Once you learn how to identify when you’re catastrophizing, you can properly address ways to manage it.

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2. Allow Yourself to Feel What You Need to Feel

The last thing you want to do is beat yourself up for having a distorted thought process. Remember that you are normal. Everyone deals with thoughts that don’t make much sense at some point. From breaking a nail to losing a loved one, you are allowed to feel emotions.

It can help to uncover the layers of your feelings. For example, “I’m sad” is a good start, but how do you really feel? Let’s imagine that someone is going through a break-up and they expressed their feelings like this instead:

I’m devastated that I’m losing someone who filled a void in my heart. I don’t know how to live without them. It’s hard for me to be alone. I feel isolated and empty.

This is much better than simply stating “I’m sad” because it helps you become more self-aware of your feelings. It’s a lot easier to figure out what steps to take when you take the time to focus on your thoughts rather than push them to the side.

3. Combat Catastrophic Thinking with Questions

Asking yourself questions can help you step outside of the box and encourage positive thinking. For example, instead of saying, “I never get anything right”, say “How can I do things better next time?” This can help you become more self-aware and realize there are many ways to be successful in life.

If your response to that is “I can’t do anything better,” ask yourself what you need to improve in order to do better. Do you need to work on your confidence? Learn new skills? Spend more time relaxing and less time stressing out over the tiniest details of your life? There’s always room for improvement.

You have the power to change a lot of things in your life. It might not be easy, but it’s worth taking the plunge to improve your mental health and reduce stress.

4. Practice Positive Affirmations

When you wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and think about what you’re grateful for. Think about how great it is to fall asleep in a comfy bed. Think about how much you love your morning cup of coffee. Be grateful for all of the opportunities that are going to come your way.

Imagine the person you want to be and verbally express these feelings. If you find yourself talking down on yourself pretty often, consider telling yourself that you’re confident and hard-working. Even though you might not feel that way, you probably are working hard to reach your goals. The more you say it to yourself, the more you will believe it!

Don’t believe me? I challenge you to practice positive affirmations every day for the next week. Feed your mind some good mental juice for a bit and see how it reacts! Make sure you come back here to let me know how it went.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @ngozitherapy if you want to stay connected!

Ngozi Ojukwu

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