I think it’s safe to say that everyone deals with anxiety. People deal with it at different frequencies and to a different extent from one another, but everyone deals with it at some point in their life. I happen to be one of those people who deals with it on a daily basis to a greater extent than the average person and a big reason why is because I have a tendency to turn an ordinary situation into a catastrophe.
If someone talks to me in a slightly different tone, or sends a brief text that ends in a period, I immediately think something is wrong. But it doesn’t stop there. I then start to analyze what I could have possibly done wrong. I obsess over what I had said or did earlier that day. After that, I think about what this could mean for the future. Is my relationship with this person ruined? Do they hate me?
The other day I texted Matthew and asked if he’d mind if I went to the grocery store a day later than I had originally planned. Ten minutes went by and he hadn’t answered. I texted again saying that if he isn’t OK with it, I can go grocery shopping when I first said I would. He still hadn’t responded. I started getting anxious, thinking he was upset with me for changing my plans. I texted him again apologizing for being “lazy” and that I would just grocery shop right then. After thirty minutes he responded saying that he was very busy at work so he didn’t have time to check his phone and that he is completely fine with me shopping at another time. I was freaking out over absolutely nothing.
The thing about catastrophizing is that it is completely irrational. I knew that Matthew wouldn’t get upset with me if I chose to grocery shop on another day. Yet, I still freaked myself out because he hadn’t texted me back within the first ten minutes after I sent the text. I had no logical reason to think he was upset with me. And the topic was literally about grocery shopping. Grocery shopping! The most mundane thing I could freak out about!
I did this almost on a daily basis. It’s gotten worse over the years and I finally decided that I need to make a change. These are the steps I have taken to limit/stop catastrophizing:
Recognize the Triggers
Like I mentioned before, something that triggers my catastrophizing is when someone responds in a way I don’t expect. Their response can be read as if something is wrong.
Rely on Logic
Catastrophizing is purely emotional. If I simply apply logic to the situation, I won’t go down that path of thinking irrational thoughts and creating a catastrophe out of nothing.
Redirect my Thoughts
When I catastrophize, I am thinking about one specific event. I need to redirect my thoughts towards something positive. That way my mood changes and I am no longer stewing over that one negative thought. I usually use this step to count my blessings. This takes time and it creates a much more positive mood. It also puts the event I am tempted to catastrophize into perspective. It shows me how insignificant it is in the grand scheme of things.
I hope this list helps you guys, especially those of you who struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. Catastrophizing is never healthy and if it is something you tend to do, please try these steps and see if they work for you! And if you have any other helpful tips, please share in the comments below!