My aunt, a very optimistic and forward thinking woman, used to tell me… “If a problem has a solution, why worry. And if it doesn’t, why worry? It’s all a matter of time. When you are patient, everything will eventually get sorted out one way or another.”
To this day, I recognize the wisdom in her words and remember them often, especially when I encounter a difficult situation with no immediate solution.
Are you a worrier?
A worrier is a person who is always worrying about what can go wrong and imagining worse case scenarios as only options. This distorted thinking pattern causes fear and anxiety that in most cases, are totally avoidable.
More often than not, the worrier has a “glass haft empty versus half full” attitude. Taking this behavior to the extreme, the thought pattern tendencies can be catastrophic in nature.
For instance, if a worrier gets a lab result with numbers a bit out of the normal range, he immediately starts thinking that there must be something very wrong with him.
A multitude of questions starting with “What if…” start popping into his mind… What if it’s my heart? What if I’ll have a stroke? What if it’s cancer? – when in fact it might be something temporary, a false positive or a minor ailment than can be resolved by taking a short vacation away from your stressful job, or with diet alone.
The catastrophic thinking pattern can be harmful to both, physical and mental health. Let’s remember that emotions and thoughts are interconnected; thus, negative thoughts create negative emotions and the opposite is true as well.
Are you a worrier? If so, think about how this behavior may be affecting your life and your health. After all, the regular ups and downs of life already cause a certain amount of stress, and when you add catastrophic thinking to the mix, the stress gets to be much more intense. Among the side effects are anxiety, palpitations, headaches, muscle tension, sour stomach, and even depression.
When you think about it, the thoughts and emotions of a worrier are caused solely based on assumptions. A worrier is not objective, but subjective to his rampant thoughts and imagination as he sees everything through a dark lens that distorts reality.
If you recognize these patterns in yourself, the following points can help you disrupt your catastrophic thinking pattern.
Most likely, people have mentioned to you that you tend to focus on negative outcomes or you might have noticed this on yourself, so the first thing is to recognize that you have this catastrophic thinking tendency. The good news is that -as with any other behavior- this way of thinking is a habit and it can be modified.
The second step is to make a conscious effort to notice the harmful thinking pattern as soon as it happens and stop it at once. Know that this thought pattern is nothing more than irrational worst-case scenarios playing in your mind like an old record, over and over again. These thoughts cause fear and anxiety, and eventually more distress. Don’t allow your mind go wild imagining horrible outcomes. Stop this kind of thinking in its tracks.
Switch the Pattern
The third step is to immediately switch to rational thoughts of possible causes and/or positive outcomes. At this stage, you intentionally transform your thoughts into positive possibilities and probabilities. From the metaphysical viewpoint, consider that “like attracts like” and as such, your thinking of positive outcomes will bring about positive results.
I want to share with you a personal example of this…
My oldest son drove cross country from California to New Mexico (16 hours from door to door) for the first time when he was 21 years old. He’d been invited to a friend’s event and since he was going to spend a week over there, he wanted to drive. He’s always been quite mature for his age and he is a responsible driver, so after giving it some thought, I agreed with the condition that he’d stick to speed limits and call me every hour or so to chat a bit and keep him company as he was driving alone.
For the first 7 hours he called me regularly. Everything was going as planned. Then, two hours had passed and he hadn’t called… I started feeling uneasy and as time kept on passing without news, I felt nauseous and my hands started shaking. I felt the anxiety escalating as the minutes passed and he was not answering the phone.
All of a sudden, I became aware of my thinking. My thoughts did NOT represent what had happened. They were not real but imagination going rampant in the wrong direction. This way of thinking was the cause of my symptoms and I consciously decided to focus on some of the possible causes for his silence. As I switched my thoughts, I started feeling less anxious. My breathing slowed down and I consciously focused on positive thoughts. This went for about one more hour. All of a sudden, the phone finally rang and I felt relieved. It turns out he was crossing a mountain ridge and had no signal for a while. All was fine.
Recognizing how my mind had taken control over me was a real eye-opener. Now, every time I encounter a troublesome situation with no immediate answer or solution, I remember my aunt’s words and the experience I had when my son took that trip. This grounds me. It brings me to the present moment of reality immediately.
Has something like this happened to you? Are you a worrier? If so, I suggest you follow the 3 steps mentioned above. Remember, this way of thinking is a habit so it can be changed. Apply the steps above regularly and pretty soon, you’ll be able to stop the catastrophic thinking on its tracks. Please share of your experience, below. Thank you for participating!