It’s one of the most unhelpful thinking styles there is. Catastrophizing imagines the worst and takes us straight into a downward spiral of unhelpful black and white thinking that freezes us in our tracks. When you’re stuck in a paralysing cycle of negativity it can feel like a gargantuan feat to prevent it. We take a look at tackling anxiety and how to stop catastrophizing in its tracks by examining;

  • What is catastrophizing?
  • What causes catastrophizing?
  • How to stop it with 5 catastrophizing hacks


Catastrophizing Meaning

Catastrophizing is the mode of thinking that takes you straight to the worst case scenario in any situation. Also known as ‘magnifying’ it is that insidious ‘What if…?’ that grows and grows when we’re faced with anxiety about what might happen. We assume the worst, magnify the negative and ignore the positives. When we catastrophize, we enter a dark, dehabilitating rabbit hole of malignant possibility, creating a worldview that prevents us from enjoying life. We can even find ourselves catastrophizing anxiety itself ”I’ll always have it” or catastrophizing relationships “It will never work.” or work “I’ve made a mess of this project. I’ll lose my job now.” You probably recognise the script all too well.

A catastrophic thinking disorder can be changed. Catastrophizing is a habit, one that it takes time to break but it is possible.

What Causes Catastrophizing?

There can be several causes of this cognitive distortion. Usually it is the result of, as well as the cause of, anxiety, resulting in a vicious cycle. Anxiety has also been linked to a diet high in sugar and processed foods so the cause of catastrophizing can be multi factorial. Most of us will fall into this faulty thinking at some point in our lives, disqualifying the positive, lasering in on potential disaster instead. But how do we stop catastrophic thoughts? Here’s how with our 5 How to stop Catastrophizing Hacks.

5 How to stop Catastrophizing Hacks

  1. Gratitude. When we catastrophize we focus exclusively on the negative. Gratitude will help us to shift our thinking into another gear. Practicing gratitude forces us into a mindset where we are actively seeking out the good, the things that we’re grateful for. When you ask “What am I grateful for?” on a regular basis, you’ll begin to change your mindset, rewire your brain and put an end to habitual downward spiralling.
  2. Stop trying to control everything. You can’t. Acknowledge that it isn’t possible to control every eventuality and let go of the worry. Focus on what you do have control over, not on what you don’t control. Shift your locus of control from external to internal by identifying what you can change. Once you’ve identified it, be proactive. Set goals and let the other stuff go when you can’t alter it.
  3. Sleep. Sleep deprivation affects our ability to focus and the clarity of our thinking. When we’re tired it distorts how we perceive the world. Research demonstrates that lack of sleep makes us hyper vigilant to threat. When we’re tired we are even more likely to view things through a negative lens. Make sure that you get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Create a self care routing before bedtime and wind down minus tech to ensure you best mindset the next day.
  4. Move. Do something. Don’t sit and dwell, make sure that you’re active instead. Go for a walk, take in the natural world around you, listen to the birds, look at the leaves, feel the breeze on your skin. Cook something. Garden. Listen to upbeat music. Phone a friend. Occupy yourself with activity and watch your worry dissipate.
  5. Practice Mindfulness
    When you practice mindfulness on a regular basis you’ll begin to recognise that your thoughts are not reality. Thoughts are not facts. When you picture the worst possible outcome for an event, that picture has no basis in reality. The truth is, we can’t predict (or control) what will happen. Mindfulness will hone your focus and help you to recognise when your thinking is faulty. It will disrupt your habitual negative patterns, bringing your attention to erroneous thoughts, allowing you to let go and move on. Take a look at our free Introduction to Mindfulness Guide

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