If you tend to make mountains from molehills, worry a lot and expect the worst, SANE Australia is here to assist with 7 self-help strategies
Is it all or nothing for you? Do you imagine the worst possible outcome for future events?
This type of anxiety is common. It can be debilitating and all-encompassing. It can impact your ability to enjoy life, make decisions, or take action.
There are resources, strategies and tools available to help, from learning, to challenging anxious thoughts, to accepting uncertainty. SANE shares seven strategies below, beginning with an introduction to "catastrophising".
What is catastrophising?
Catastrophising involves irrational thoughts where we believe something is far worse than it actually is. This includes present or future events. It coincides with rumination, where thoughts go round and round in your head. Catrophising takes a small event – for example, a disagreement with your partner – and creates negative thoughts such as "Well, now my day is ruined". While there is no proof this event will affect your day, your perception can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Further to this, your catastrophising may result in thoughts that your partner will remain angry; you may even think they’ll leave you in the future.
1. Pay attention
You may not realise you are catastrophising. You may automatically jump from problem to disaster. Try to pay attention to what you are thinking. Ask yourself, is this perceived disaster a probable outcome?
2. Write your worries down
Keep a notebook or a ‘worry list’. Objectively write down every negative thought and your corresponding reaction to it. Over time you should see a pattern of when you are likely to catastrophise, making it easier to develop solutions.
3. Postpone your worry
Postpone your biggest worries to a scheduled 20 to 30 minutes every day. This worry session can help break the habit of dwelling, acting as a safety net to contain your worries. During your worry session, go over your worry list. Work through your concerns and try to find solutions. It’s okay if you can’t find a solution and the thoughts still bother you, just try to contain these worries to the daily session.
4. Focus on solutions
Part of catastrophising is the belief you are unable to deal with problems and negative situations. With your ‘worry list’, brainstorm other possible outcomes. Make a list of all the solutions you can think of. Focus on what you can change rather than what is beyond your control.
Now you’ve evaluated your options, make an action plan. This can be an uncomfortable task. But you’ll feel better when you have a plan, and you start addressing your concerns.
5. Challenge anxious thoughts
Instead of viewing your thoughts as facts, treat them as theories you’re testing out. Examine and challenge your worries; you’ll develop a more balanced perspective. Try asking yourself:
- What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
- Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
- What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
- Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me, and how will it hurt me?
- What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
6. Problem Solving
Worrying rarely leads to a solution. Regardless of how long you dwell on worst-case scenarios, you’re no more prepared if they actually happen. Problem-solving involves evaluating a worrying situation, identifying steps to deal with it, and then putting the plan into action.
If a worry pops into your head, start by asking yourself whether the problem is something you can actually solve. The following questions can help:
- Is the problem something you're currently facing, rather than an imaginary what-if?
- If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is your concern realistic?
- Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?
7. Accept uncertainty
The inability to tolerate uncertainty is a significant contributor to anxiety. Worrying is seen as a way to predict the future, prevent unpleasant surprises and control outcomes. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Whilst you may feel safer worrying about all the things that could go wrong, it is an illusion and does not make life more predictable. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t stop bad things happening. It will only stop you enjoying good things in the present. So, if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers.
If you're keen to gain more insight into this topic, you can continue reading SANE's guide "How to Stop Catastrophising" by logging into our Partner Portal.
Mental Health Month encourages us all to think about our mental health and wellbeing, regardless of whether we may have a lived experience of mental ill-health or not. We’re incredibly proud and excited to partner with SANE Australia, a national charity helping people live long and fulfilling lives, free from stigma and discrimination. They support anyone affected by mental health issues, including family and friends, through information and stories, peer support, and counselling.