Catastrophizing is pretty much what you might think it is: blowing up something into a catastrophe when it’s not. When we catastrophize, we tell our selves that something is so awful, so terrible, that we won’t be able to handle it. That we would fall apart, crumble to a million pieces, and never be able to get out of it. The more we tell ourselves the problem we are facing is a catastrophe, the more hopeless and helpless we will feel to effectively deal with it. Catastrophizing can result in increased anxiety and depression, and can make difficult situations feel even worse than they already are.
For example: have you ever gone out and had a bite of your friends meal or sip of a cocktail, and thought… “I have absolutely blown in! I am a failure & will never lose this weight. I am destined to be fat, out of shape and miserable the rest of my life.” Sound a bit over the top? Not at all – this is a very common unhelpful thought that many health and fitness buffs have multiple times a day.
How Can You Better Handle Catastrophic Thinking?
When you recognize a catastrophic thought, first ask yourself, “what about this situation is so terrible? Have I been able to deal with similar situations in the past? If so, did I survive? How did I survive? What did I do to ease the difficult situation?”
- How do I think I will feel about this situation a month from now?
- Do I imagine your feelings will be just as powerful?
- What do I think I will likely do to move on?
- How about a year from now, how do I think I will think and feel about the situation?
- Would my feelings be even close to the intensity that is was?
- And what about 2 years from now? Most health and fitness challenges lose their emotional intensity and importance over a very short period of time.
- Think back to what I was most worried about five years ago when it came to my health and fitness and how it turned out. Do I even remember what I were concerned about then? (likely not!)
Now, I want you to think, out of all the people in the world going through a health and fitness transformation. Do you think you are the only one in the world going through this? How many other people would you guess go through something similar? How many people do you think are facing something even worse? How do you think they manage to move beyond their challenge and move forward to do positive things for their health? What does that tell you about how you may be able to handle this current situation you are in?
Now take some time to look at what you have going for you in terms of your health. What positive experiences in health and fitness are you able to have? What steps can you take to improve your fitness journey even more? Consider the aspects of your health and fitness that you take for granted and are not catastrophes, and harness gratitude.
With social media today, I am sure that you can gather a list of accounts you look up to in the health and fitness sector. Think of someone you know personally, or follow online, who seems to handle adversity pretty well. If this catastrophe happened to them, how do you imagine they would deal with it? What do you think they would tell themselves to be able to pick themselves up and get back on track?
Do you think everybody would think this situation is as bad as you do? If not, why not? How would they be making sense of this to not see it as a catastrophe?
By becoming aware of the cognitive distortion; Catastrophizing… you will be able to consider other perspectives, which can help reduce the belief that the situation is terrible or hopeless. By feeling better and more confident, you can effectively manage the situation & less likely to go off the deep end, eat copious amounts of food in reaction to guilt or shame. My hope is that be recongnizing your maladaptive thinking, you will more likely to respond to the challenge skillfully, and with less emotional pain.
Interested in learning more about the most common cognitive distortions and how they apply to health and fitness transformations? We dive deep into these common thinking errors on Day 18 of the 4 Week Course! To read more or start the course, click link below!