“How can I work on my constant over-thinking and catastrophizing?”
The anxious curse. Overthinking and catastrophizing are very common cognitive distortions, or thinking traps. Someone with anxiety will experience this level of thinking very frequently and sometimes very disturbingly. Catastrophizing – your anxious brain makes up the worst possible scenario and have you believe it to be 100% likely (and feel awful, too). ex. “What if I fail my exam tomorrow and never get into college and end up living in my parents’ basement with no job forever?” This type of worrying is the way your anxiety likes to maintain control. If you worry about it, then maybe you’re more prepared than if you didn’t worry. Any of this sounding familiar?
Overthinking is the anxious brain’s tendency to think of the same thing over and over again in different scenarios with different outcomes, sometimes in the exact same way. This is another way the brain is trying to be prepare for the worst and keep you safe (as you can tell, anxiety is all about survival, though it can be overzealous at times).
When you get trapped in this kind of thinking, it is your job to retrain your brain to think differently. Sounds like an impossible task, but research has shown how incredibly malleable the brain truly is. This means that we can train it to a new way of thinking by repetitive practice, and phase out old ways of thinking (or at least make them occur way less often). Your first step to combat catastrophizing and overthinking is to catch yourself when you’re doing it. Awareness is your best friend in re-training your brain. If you need help and are comfortable sharing you’re working on this, ask a friend or family member to help catch when you’re engaging in worst-case-scenario-doomsday talk.
Then, once you know you’re stuck in an anxiety trap, adapt a new thought, such as: “What if things work out?” It’s sad, but so often we do not give ourselves the luxury of thinking, what if all goes right? May sound hokey to only think positively, but worrying hasn’t gotten you very far, so why don’t we give the positive stuff a try?
Keep a tally in your phone on how often you went down the anxiety rabbit hole. Try to see if that number goes down over time with your efforts.