I’m sitting on the windowsill in my writing studio, gazing through the window. It’s late afternoon and I see people down below hurrying somewhere. Someone enters a store, someone else waits for a bus. The clock is ticking. Brian will finish his work soon and come back home to hug me again. What if something happens? I’ve heard of so many accidents this week. Maybe I’ll call him and ask if he’s ok? Maybe he shouldn’t drive today? There are so many reckless drivers around. I hope he’s ok. I’m gonna call him…
If such thoughts ever appeared in your mind, congratulations! You’re in love.
Once I thought that being in love is the best thing that can happen to you. The happiness, the joy, the connection with the other person. You can’t really explain or understand that until you feel it yourself. But, nobody ever told me that being in love can cause a condition that’ll change joy and happiness into anxiety and fear. That condition is called catastrophizing.
What is catastrophizing?
Psychology Today calls it a cognitive distortion that consists of two parts: you predict a negative outcome and conclude that if it happens, it’ll be a catastrophe.
This condition can drive you crazy. You cannot stop coming up with all horrible things that can happen to your partner. And you know that they are possible. And, if they are possible, they can happen. And if they do happen, that will be the end of the world.
If you love someone more than any other person on this planet, you know that if something happens to him or her, you’ll die too. Body cannot live without a soul, after all.
This fear used to drive me crazy and what’s worse, Brian could barely stand it. Sometimes I would ask him not to go out, not to drive, not to go climbing. Everytime he’d be leaving our apartment in the morning, I’d tell him to be careful and call me at least 3 times a day.
Because of catastrophizing, I felt constant anxiety. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t live normally. So couldn’t Brian. It affected him as much as it affected me.
I knew I had to do something about it, because you can’t live in fear all your life. Thus, I started reading, talking to people about my problem and eventually, discovered several ways you can deal with.
Here is the solution:
Just “Stop It!”
You heard right. If you have self-destructive thoughts, you’re the one allowing them to appear. You’re the one in charge. Thus, if you created them, you might as well destroy them. May this video show you the way. Once you watch it, recall it every time a horror thought appears in your mind. It helps.
“Don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”
That quote comes from a book “Three Man In A Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. Read it again and memorize. If you’re like me and worry that your partner might fall ill and the disease will be deadly, remember that can happen but doesn’t have to. Also, if your partner really gets sick, many diseases are curable. Moreover, not every headache means brain tumor and not every fever means leukemia. You’re not a doctor, so don’t stuff up your head with things you’ve no idea about!
What about other possibilities?
Once, when I was younger I was terrified of getting with child and dying during childbirth. When I told my mum about it, she said, “Yeah, some women die. Do you know how many still live?” That lesson I’ll remember until the rest of my life. If you always focus on the negative outcome, check the chances of it happening in reality. Also, since you adore overthinking, try to come up with different possibilities. For example, if your partner should have been home an hour ago it might mean he had an accident, but also that he’s stuck in a traffic jam, went for a beer with a friend or had to stay late at work. So, consider other outcomes!
Have more sex.
That’s right! sex has a number of advantages that’ll help you deal with the negative thoughts: it’ll make you relaxed, you’ll feel a surge of endorphins and be happy, it’ll improve your sleep, make you less stressed and prevent diseases. It’ll also make you forget about what might happen and help you focus on the present moment. Keep yourself happy and satisfied and the ugly thoughts will go away.
You’ll cope with it.
This is the last and the most difficult lesson of all: embrace the fact that something horrible might happen and convince yourself that you’ll cope with it. Teach yourself to let go. Things happen to people and you cannot help it in any way. You can’t protect your loved ones everywhere 24 hours a day. I know it’s difficult, but ask yourself, do you want them to be happy? So, let them live. Give them space and freedom. Focus on spending quality time with your partner instead of catastrophizing. Also, even if something bad is going to happen, time heals all wounds. Nothing is ever easy, but if you keep on worrying your partner will die, you’ll miss all the days he’s there, next to you, alive. Think about it.
If you’re catastrophizing, it’s okay. You’re not alone. I went through it too.
Does it ever disappear? No. I still have horrible thoughts every now and then. I cannot help that. But, those thoughts don’t control me any longer. With the above techniques I eliminate them as soon as they appear and I can finally focus on the present moment.
Since they helped me, they can help you as well.
If you found the article helpful, share it! If you know any other ways that help you to stop catastrophizing, let us know in the comments below!
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