Here are some thoughts, collected from friends in the past week. “Helen didn’t put a kiss at the bottom of her email. I’ve obviously done something wrong. She hates me.” Or: “My boss didn’t ask how my weekend was. Maybe I really torpedoed that last project?” And: “Oh God why are my two colleagues talking with the door closed? It’s about me, isn’t it?”
Rational? No. Normal? Yes. Catastrophising is, unfortunately, incredibly common, especially among women. “Bracing ourselves for the worst stopped us getting eaten by predators,” says psychotherapist Mark Bradley. “However, you can also begin to beckon in the worst by letting these negative fantasies whir away.” So, how do we stop this destructive behaviour?
NO NEED FOR DRAMA
“You are indulging your craving for drama,” says psychotherapist Marisa Peer “We need diversity and certainty. When we have too much of either, we long for the other. Hence when travelling, we hanker after beans on toast on the sofa. Catastrophising shakes life up when things are a bit too calm. Once you know why you’re doing it, you can harness it for good.”
HOW GOOD CAN IT GET?
Fight bad thoughts by imagining the most over-blown positive outcome. Say two of your friends forgot to invite you out one night. Worst case: they hate you and spent the evening sticking verbal pins into you. Then chuck in the best case: they met up a whole nine months early to plan a spectacular birthday party for you. “You’ll see that the best case is equally as ridiculous as the worst case, and seek out a middle ground prediction instead,” says Bradley.
CONTEXT IS ALL
Put your troubles into perspective, advises Peer. “You’ve had a quarrel with your flatmate. So what? Compare that to the friend who has cancer or the recently married workmate whose husband has cheated on her. You’ll soon resize your problems appropriately.”
USE MILITARY SECRETS
When you’re aboard the catastrophe bullet train, your body starts to believe it really is in danger, says Bradley. “Your heart rate gallops, stress hormones spike, adrenaline shoots through you. Meaning you will lie awake fretting until 4am on a Sunday night, or fluff that meeting.” Essentially, you’re experiencing a mini panic attack. Use the fail-safe tactic of the military and emergency services globally. “It’s simple, but breathing in through your nose while counting to four, and out through your mouth while counting to four, makes it impossible for your body to be foxed into a flap.” Try it – right now. Instant Zen in eight seconds flat.