There are so many ways to view this world of ours. You have your optimists and pragmatists and pessimists and more. Of course, there are times of almost universal celebration and other times when virtually everyone feels sad. Such is the inevitable twists and turns of life.
However, if you’re someone who struggles with catastrophic thinking, things are not so cut and dried. You may feel susceptible to intense fixations and unreasonable expectations. These extreme emotions, in turn, can induce a state of emotional overwhelm and stress.
Catastrophic Thinking, Overwhelm and Stress
We all have negative thoughts at times — often for very justifiable reasons. If those thoughts often or always spiral into worst-case scenarios, it could be that you’re dealing with catastrophic thinking.
A widespread example occurs when you experience any physical symptoms. Logically, you may want to know more about it, so you do a Google search and diagnose yourself with a terminal illness within 10 minutes. There seems to be no middle ground.
Again, this happens to everyone at one time or another. But for someone who has gone through a traumatic experience, catastrophic thinking could become the norm. It’s common among those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Regardless of the underlying cause, catastrophic thinking can override, stress and overwhelm your rational mind. An overwhelmed mind is more likely to slip into even more worst-case scenarios.
Signs of Emotional Overwhelm
- A progressive decrease in your ability to focus or complete basic tasks
- Feeling fatigued or symptoms of physical illness with no apparent source
- Withdrawal and social self-isolation
- Displaying disproportionate reactions — in particular, extreme responses to minor events
- Your emotions color your perception of everything in your world and you’re having difficulty building resilience to these tough emotions
- Again, your overwhelmed state feeds you right back into susceptibility to catastrophic thinking
4 Daily Tips to Cope with Catastrophic Thinking and Overwhelm
1. Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
Catastrophic thinking thrives when you dwell on the past or fret about the future. Mindfulness teaches us to be more present with our thoughts and see them with more clarity. Meditation is a proven and calming practice explicitly designed for this service.
2. Accept the Ups and the Downs as Normal
The antidote to catastrophic thinking is not denial. There is a happy medium: acceptance and balance. No one can avoid bad moments, but recognizing them as normal can reduce the dread they create.
3. Counter With Self-Care
The more stressed you are, the easier you slip into catastrophic thinking. The more tired you are, the faster you are overwhelmed. By practicing daily self-care and trying to find the little joys of life, you raise your defenses. This approach includes healthy habits with sleep, eating, and exercise, along with some relaxation techniques.
4. Talk Back to Your Inner Voice
Before you can fall into a state of overwhelm, learn to say no to the internal monologue’s preaching about doom and gloom. Your thoughts are yours to believe or challenge. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing a false notion — unless you surrender to it without a fight. The next time your inner voice tells you something like you’re getting fired or failing a test, ask it for evidence.
When to Seek Help
As stated above, catastrophic thinking is often an outcome of PTSD. This condition is severe but typically treatable with outside intervention. This reality — combined with the potentially debilitating effects of emotional overwhelm — points you in the direction of counseling. Putting the onus solely on yourself may be too much to handle at first.
That’s okay; there’s no shame in seeking help. Weekly therapy sessions can help you identify unhelpful thought patterns and their sources. From there, you can see the path to change and recovery with more clarity and motivation.
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With professional guidance, you can and will calm your anxiety. Blue Boat Counseling offers online therapy for those struggling with anxiety and PTSD living in the state of Ohio. Contact us today to schedule an online appointment with one of our Columbus therapists. We’re here to help.