Imaging the worst-case scenario? Here’s how to stop catastrophic thinking

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Written By Margonoe Tumindax

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How you see the world depends on your thoughts – negative or positive. But if your mind is more occupied by negative thoughts, here’s how to stop catastrophic thinking.

Imagine you missed a deadline at work. In such a situation, some people might think about how they can handle the situation and finish the work as soon as possible. For others, this thought will cause them to think that they will lose their job, leading to financial ruin, strained relationships, and no job. If you can relate to this exaggerated chain of thoughts, you are prone to catastrophic thinking. Everyone experiences catastrophising now and again. Catastrophic thinking is when a person makes a situation seem much worse than it is. If you are in this trap, here’s how to stop catastrophic thinking.

Before that, what is catastrophic thinking?

Catastrophic thinking involves dwelling on negative possibilities and assuming the worst-case scenario will occur. Dr Jyoti Kapoor, a senior psychiatrist, says, “Instead of considering the more realistic or positive possibilities of a given situation, most people focus on the most extreme and unfavourable outcomes.”

These irrational thoughts can impact your mental health by fostering anxiety, stress, and a heightened sense of vulnerability. To deal with it, calming your mind and controlling your thoughts are essential.

How to stop catastrophic thinking?

1. Play music

Engaging in music can be a powerful tool to shift your focus. Whether it’s calming tunes or energetic beats, music can influence your mood and distract your mind from catastrophic thoughts.

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woman listening music
Music therapy can help people deal with negative thoughts. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Talk to your friends

Connecting with a friend can provide a valuable external perspective. Sharing your concerns with someone you trust can offer support, reassurance, and a different viewpoint on the situation, helping to alleviate catastrophic thinking.

3. Practice deep breathing or mindfulness

Incorporate deep breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques into your routine. These practices promote relaxation and help center your mind in the present moment, reducing the intensity of negative thoughts.

4. Positive affirmations

Counteract negative self-talk with positive affirmations to boost your self-esteem and confidence. A 2013 study published in the US National Library of Medicine suggests that using positive statements can combat stress and break the cycle of catastrophic thinking.

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5. Limit negative information intake

Control the information you consume, especially if it tends to be negative. Constant exposure to distressing news or pessimistic content can contribute to catastrophic thinking. Set boundaries for your media consumption to maintain a more positive mindset.

6. Think about your strengths

Shift your focus to your strengths and achievements. Reflect on past successes to remind yourself of your capabilities. This positive self-reflection can serve as a counterbalance to catastrophic thinking, fostering a sense of competence and resilience.

A woman in a happy mood
Know your strengths! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Challenge negative thoughts

Actively challenge the negative thoughts that fuel catastrophic thinking. When you find yourself thinking negatively and harshly about the outcomes, stop and question whether those thoughts are based on reality or are simply distorted perceptions. It will help you shift your focus from thinking about the worst outcomes.

Also read: Give self-doubt a blow and boost your confidence with these tips!

8. Take a pause and think

When overwhelmed by catastrophic thoughts, take a pause. Step back and consider alternative perspectives. This pause allows you to gain a more balanced view of the situation, reducing the likelihood of fixating on worst-case scenarios.

9. Practice gratitude

Cultivate gratitude by focusing on the positive aspects of your life. Regularly acknowledging and appreciating the good things can take your mind off catastrophic thinking. Create a gratitude journal to document positive experiences and reflections.

10. Practice self-compassion

Be kind to yourself during moments of anxiety. Understand that negative thoughts are a common human experience, and it’s okay to feel anxious at times. Practise self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

Also read: Overreacting to small things? Here are 9 ways to stop being emotionally reactive

11. Seek professional support

If catastrophic thinking significantly impacts your daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Therapy can provide valuable tools and coping mechanisms to manage these thoughts, enabling you to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life, avers the expert.

A woman seeking therapy
Going to therapy and interacting with friends can help with cataphoric thinking. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Incorporating these tips into your daily routine can contribute to breaking the cycle of catastrophic thinking and promoting a more positive and resilient mindset. Remember that change takes time, so be patient and consistent in applying these strategies for lasting results.

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