I’m often asked about my own self help ideas, so today I thought I’d focus on a couple of the main ways I try to stop catastrophizing so much. You’d be surprised at just how many people waste so much of their lives catastrophizing. Thinking about the ‘what if’s‘! I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t experience them, because I do! I am no exception. Being diagnosed with OCD makes it feel like the ‘what if’ question is burnt into my brain! Much like having a branding iron stuck into it! The questions are always lurking around somewhere…what if I lose control and hurt somebody I care about? What if I run a child over when driving and not even notice? What if I forget to turn the oven off? What if I go out and something ‘bad‘ happens and I get blamed for it? What if what if what if!! For those of you who can relate to these thoughts…you’re far from alone with them!
I was thinking about this today and it got me thinking about some self help ideas I use to help me stop catastrophizing and just get on with my day! Though I admit, they’re sometimes difficult to put into action when in the throws of an anxiety attack, but as I believe prevention is better than cure, it is better to just weave them into your day to day lives for those times when you’re at your wits end.
Change your relationship with your thoughts
In many of the training courses that I run I talk a lot about ‘acceptance of thought’. What do I mean by that? Well believe it or not, everyone thinks ‘bad’ thoughts and that’s okay!
Let me ask you a question! How many thoughts do you think in a single day? 10,000? 100,000? A million? More? Well I’m not sure of the answer to this question, but what I do know is that is a hell of a lot! We are an intelligent species with a super computer for a brain! Not even science knows everything about our brains – it’s just so intelligent and sophisticated. But let me ask you another question. Do you think it normal to just think ‘nice thoughts’ or ‘good thoughts’? Thinking of fluffy bunnies and grannies making patchwork quilts? Our brains are no designed like that, and for all the good our brain can think, it can sure think of some bad stuff too!
My point here is that it would be abnormal to just think ‘good thoughts’! Everyone thinks bad things from time to time, and most of the time we are totally unaware of where the thought actually came from! I remember walking down a busy flight of stairs in an office and had a fleeting thought and imagined kicking everyone in front of me down the stairs. Does that make me a bad guy? No! I didn’t want to kick people down the stairs, the thought just popped into my head because our brains do that sort of thing. I felt claustrophobic and my brain imagined a way out of that feeling! I felt anxious after thinking it, and of course as anyone who lives with OCD will understand – I questioned whether I really wanted to do that! I didn’t! It was just a random thought!
Thoughts do not define you, and you are not your thoughts! I guess I like the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach that sometimes we experience distressing thoughts, and that’s okay! ACT helps you to learn to just acknowledge them as thoughts and they soon pass!
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that because one person thinks something, then everyone must think the same! Let’s look at the example that someone just doesn’t like you! Well it happens to us all, doesn’t it? I’m quite certain that there are some people out there who find me downright annoying, not their type of ‘friend’ or just a pain! But then there are others who really enjoy my company and get on well with me.
One of the best commitments I have ever made to myself (my personal favourite of my self help ideas) is not caring what people think about me. It’s been hard to do, but after years of trying to think this way I believe I’ve actually got there!
The way I try to think is that what others think of me is absolutely none of my business! It’s theirs and theirs alone! We all take a liking to some people and a disliking to others! Everyone wants to be liked and be popular, but guess what – it’s impossible to be liked by absolutely everyone! I’m sure even Mother Theresa had people who didn’t like her too! We all do! It’s life!
Stop exaggerating! What one person thinks is individual to them, and not likely to be thought of by the next! So if you are victim to this thinking trap! Stop! Do you like everyone? Genuinely? I bet you don’t 🙂 and that is just fine!
So there are a couple of my self help ideas for catastrophizing. If you enjoyed reading then give us a share and don’t forget to subscribe. Also check out this website who voted us in the top 25 anxiety blogs to follow in 2017!