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Catastrophic thinking: when your mind clings to the worst scenarios

Catastrophic thinking: when your mind clings to the worst scenarios

Have you ever noticed how often negative thoughts invade us?

How can something harmless become an imminent catastrophe in our head? For example, a spot on the skin becomes a cancerous tumor. A motorcycle trip will almost certainly end with a terrible accident. Our partner talks to someone we don't know on the phone and is sure to cheat us ...

What are catastrophic thoughts?

These examples of catastrophic thinking may seem exaggerated, perhaps even silly. But many of us, before we realize it, turn a situation that worries us relatively in a scenario of the worst possible case.

The catastrophic thinking It is really problematic, since it causes the same result that we are trying to avoid, that is, an unpleasant and painful state emotionally speaking.

For example, it has been found that worrying about whether a mole on our skin is a tumor, activates some of the same brain regions and emotional apprehension that occurs when it actually turns out to be a tumor. Catastrophic thinking also causes rising peaks in the stress hormone cortisol and reduces our ability to react effectively.

When our mind is producing catastrophic thoughts, we can use the following four practical tips:

1. Observe your thoughts

Watch when your thoughts depart from realistic scenarios and go to unusual or unexpected scenarios. "Pay attention to the patterns you generate so that you can refute them with greater common sense. Also, when your thoughts become catastrophic, see if you are judging yourself himself, because in many cases it is.

Sometimes, we don't even realize that our minds are producing such dramatic thoughts. The best long-term solution according to some studies is to practice self-awareness and conscious meditation. This helps us to be more in tune with our thoughts and realize when and how they change. In this way we are better able to discern when our thought processes become pessimistic and catastrophic for no real reason.

An exercise you can practice is the following: Describe the sounds you hear around you using neutral words. When your mind moves to other thoughts or senses, without judgment, you must quickly focus on listening to the sounds.

2. Regain control

You can't control everything, but we must make the effort to take into account the realistic options available on a certain moment. If you are afraid of flying, for example, take advantage of the physical studies and research that underlie commercial flights. Remember that this practice has existed more than a century ago and that, statistically, you are safer on an airplane than in your car.

If you are worried about the spot on the skin, you can make an appointment with a dermatologist to have you checked and offered the relevant explanations, which will almost certainly be good news. Do not stay anchored in catastrophic thinking and obfuscate him, look for realistic arguments.

3. Face your fears

It is nothing new: the most effective way to overcome your fears is to face them. Jung already observed that what you resist persists. For example, if you are afraid of flying, take a vacation outside that forces you to catch a plane. If you are afraid that there is a serious problem in your marriage, deal with this problem with your partner. Because if there is a serious problem, at least you will know what to start working on, instead of worrying, ruminating and depressing.

4. See a psychotherapist

You might be thinking that catastrophes actually occur: airplanes crash! And you would be right. But it is a fact that happens (fortunately) in an exceptional way, taking into account the number of daily flights that circulate through the sky of our beloved planet. We live in a world of fear in case this or that thing happens... And the above tips could not help overcome this anxiety. But if you don't get it for yourself, that's when you should visit a therapist to help you individually.

Unfortunately, it is more acceptable to see a dentist than a psychologist, when it is clear that we would be much better taking greater care of our minds.

Our minds are very effective in creating catastrophic thoughts and they usually seem very convincing. Fortunately, there are strategies we can practice to calm our anxiety and improve our autonomy.

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