Stories We Write in Our Heads - Part Two (Reducing Anxiety by Staying away from Catastrophic Thinking)
Want to read part one of Stories We Write in Our Heads? Click Here
I have worked with a number of clients struggling with anxiety whose particular “ go-to” anxiety iscatastrophic thinking. Catastrophic thinking moves us to terrible outcomes; the phrase “making a mountain out of a molehill” sums up this type of anxiety. This is where the stories we write in our heads can really take over!
It may show up like this:
As you read over these examples, give yourself space to ask, “how has catastrophic thinking shown up in my life?” Then, using the skills we talked about in last week’s post,Stay in The Present, address the catastrophic thinking. For example...
The Late Phone Bill
At some point in their lives, most people have been late paying a bill. No one is perfect.
Stay in the present. Right now, you have a place to live, and a phone that works.
Gather real information. If you are worried about how paying a bill late will affect your credit, call a credit bureau and ask. You may want to do a credit check on yourself.
Make a plan based on reality instead of catastrophe. If your credit isn’t what you want it to be, ask someone in the credit industry how to improve it. It is a common process and plenty of resources are available to you.
The Big Fight
It is impossible for two people to agree all the time. Couples fight sometimes. And since it’s common to disagree and/or argue, you can figure out as a couple how to repair.
Stay in the present. You are upset with each other, but upset doesn’t equal break-up. Stay away from break-up language and thoughts.
Gather real information. Have you repaired the relationship before? Can you repair again? Does the other person want to repair?
Make a plan based in reality. How can you move forward from here?
The Mistake at Work
Part of staying away from catastrophic thinking includes the acceptance that mistakes happen and that we often learn from our mistakes.
Stay in the present. What did she actually say? She actually said she wants to talk to you. This is a stressful situation. Let yourself feel the stress, but don’t write a story about the future in your head.
Gather real information. What is the company culture? Do people usually get fired because of mistakes?
Make a plan based in reality.Thank her for the honesty. Affirm your commitment to grow from the experience. Touch base with her in a few weeks and inform her how you have learned from the mistake.
Some of these suggestions may seem too simplified. I agree, they are simple, and life is way more complicated than step by step directions. I have found that simple thoughts are helpful when we feel overwhelmed with anxious thoughts. My hope is to show you a path out of catastrophic thinking, and bring you back to a world of possibilities that doesn’t overwhelm you with anxiety.
Thanks for reading! I have one more excellent tool to share next week about the stories we write in our heads.
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