Worst Case Scenario
Does your brain ever go to the worst possible outcome? Mine does if I let it do its own thing…
Think about the last time you were expecting someone to show up at a certain time. Maybe they said that they would be home at 5:30, and then six o clock rolled around, no sign of the person you were waiting for. Where did your brain go? Was it all death and destruction and doom and gloom? Did you concoct a terrible universe in a short period of time?
The danger is, when your brain does this over and over again, you wind up being in a low-level anxiety state all day long, and it becomes your normal state. Not a good thing…
Why Stop it?
If you don’t start working against “catastrophizing,” it becomes a pattern of thinking, a habit of thought, and it creates an unhealthy super-highway in your brain.
You become very, very good at planning possible negative future scenarios. And the better your brain gets at doing this, the quicker it starts doing it, and you don’t even realize this is happening.
If you have been following me for a while you understand that your thoughts lead to your feelings which lead to your actions. So negative thoughts lead to negative feelings like anxiety, which lead to negative actions.
This is the very reason it is important to change the habit of catastrophizing!
Faulty Crystal Ball
When you “catastrophize,” nothing has actually happened yet. Nothing bad has occurred. It’s all in your mind. You make yourself suffer emotionally now, and you are already suffering the consequences of the decisions that you’re making in order to deal with that negative emotion when nothing at all has gone wrong.
It’s like your brain is a faulty crystal ball that only can see the negative future.
Watching Your Brain at Work
Because you have both a lower brain and a higher brain, you have the ability to watch your brain at work. You can actually question and challenge it, teach it new ways of behaving and operating.
If you notice that catastrophizing keeps on your toes and you love it, then, by all means, keep doing it!
Most people, though, aren’t coping with anxiety in a healthy way. Most of us turn to things in our external environment to numb that anxiety and then get yucky results.
Exposure to Anxiety
Long-term exposure to stress hormones can wreak havoc on your weight, your blood pressure, your digestive system, your immune system and your sleep. So not only does your emotional environment become uncomfortable, but you also wind up creating an uncomfortable physical environment for yourself as well. Not a pretty picture.
Yet you and I remain in anxiety at times because somehow we think that it allows us to be safe. Because somehow, we think that our anxiety makes us make a plan and prepare for the worst. But that isn’t truly keeping you safe, is it?
Safety comes first of all from God in heaven.
Next, there is safety in thinking clearly, strategizing, problem-solving.
Begin to Change
So how do you change this negative habit of always going to the dark plane?
One simple key is to let yourself go there but to do it intentionally.
Your brain wants to stop just at what it believes is the worst situation it can come up with. Don’t let it stop there. Let your brain keep going. Get really concrete. What would really happen? Is it truly a disaster? Would you figure things out?
Start asking yourself, “Ok, if this happens, then what?” and let your brain go there. So what? What happens next?
What is it that you are really fearing? Your death? Someone else’s death? Losing a job?
Everything that your brain is telling you is too terrible, too hard, too unbearable. Ask your brain what it’s really afraid of, and then start getting really concrete. Don’t just stop at what you believe is the terrible situation. What would happen? Do you have evidence that you have been able to come through on the other side of challenging situations before?
Be on the lookout for evidence that you can handle difficult things. Collect evidence. That alone can make a tremendous difference.
Your turn! Tell us how you have been dealing with catastrophizing, and what works for you. And if (If? really?) you know anyone who could use this blog post, don’t be shy and share it. They’ll thank you for it.