Catastrophic Thinking: Recognize It

Do you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop (a.k.a. next crisis situation)?

I used to believe living in this actionable management environment would produce high results. I was wrong. It produced sadness, exhaustion and an unreal urgency. Yes, it allowed me to take action but didn't help me feel better. I was caught reacting instead of responding to the perceived threat. I learned to master catastrophic thinking by going in the complete opposite direction... by slowing down.

Catastrophic thinking is ruminating about worst-case scenarios. You have a negative thought and you play out every possible action and outcome. The overthinking (which is happening during) can be isolating, lonely and anxiety producing. It stops you from taking the best action.Unless someone is or about to be injured, most situations allow for time to strategize through. Your mind is designed to keep you alive through decision-making. If this inner chatter is the only thing you are talking to, it is going to keep you small, afraid and stuck. It breeds inaction to keep you safe. Catastrophic thinking is possible to overcome, but it takes work. Talking it through is most beneficial but not always possible. The purpose is to get you out of your head. Next time this happens to you, grab a journal and try this exercise... 1. Write the situation. 2. Describe the worst-case scenario. 3. What is the implication on your future if the worst-case scenario happens? 4. List the action(s) you need to take to prevent the worst-case scenario? 5. Next, describe the best-case scenario. 6. What is the implication on your future if the best-case scenario happens? 7. List the action(s) you need to take to increase the chance of the best-case scenario. Stress is a natural part of life, allows us to grow and helps to build resiliency. Overthinking stress though creates toxic anxiety. Don't stay there for long. As Les Brown says, "Hard times don't come to stay. They come to pass."

Working through these steps will allow you to get out of the rumination and take strategic action.

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By Lauren Douglass


Orenda Leadership 

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