I have a tendency to be catastrophic. What that means, for those who haven’t heard of the term, is that things escalate very quickly in my mind. If someone was a little strange with me I have insulted them and their whole family, and they hate me. My recent break up is a great example of this: when I look back over the past year I either see hideous mistakes or a perfect union; the two separately, even though I know the truth is some messy combination of the above.
Essentially when you’re catastrophic it’s hard to see the grey in issues, because you’re so blinded by the black and white. It’s exhausting. When I’m happy the whole world is beautiful and nothing could ever go wrong, when I’m sad there is no good on this earth.
So if you, like me, feel this way, here are some ways I’ve learnt to help myself.
Fight Your Natural Instinct
Knowing that your mind lets things escalate helps to temper it. As soon as I start to make bold claims about 'everything being..’ I try to take a step back and realise that it’s not as extreme as I feel. Spotting it isn’t always easy, because usually when things are getting extreme I’m so wrapped up in what is going on that I find it difficult to think rationally but, as with so many things, practise helps and the more I challenge myself, the easier it becomes.
Get Perspective From A Friend
Luckily my close friend knows that I am like this and she can help me see the nuances, or that it’s not all bad. When it gets too hard to fight my natural instinct I can go to her and try and get some outside perspective to help me break it down.
Find A Distraction
Thinking things over just makes it worse, until it becomes obsessional and I’ve lost all sight of what actually is going on. Don’t overthink things, instead distract yourself. Read a book, watch a favourite tv show, listen to music, do anything that will pull you out of your own head. You don’t have to be in the real world, but at least choose another world that is more pleasant!
Make A List Of Good Things And Bad Things
This is for more when you're catatrophising negatively about life not being good, but it's a helpful trick to know. A very good friend made me do this when I was upset at the start of this semester, as I knew that there had been enjoyable moments since I had returned to Abu Dhabi but I felt even worse that I couldn't think of any. Together we sat down and made a list of things that were good and a separate one of things that were bad. The only rule: you couldn't have more bad than good, so for every point that was negative you had to work hard to think of something positive. Once we actually started thinking about it the good ones flowed naturally until they outnumbered our list of negativity 2:1. It made me feel a whole lot better about the situation and I have each list pinned above my desk to remind myself that the world can still be a happy place, even when I don't feel like it is.
I had never realised that my thought patterns were so naturally dramatic until it was pointed out to me by my counsellor, but I’m so glad I’m finally starting to get a handle on it. I hope these tips help you if you find yourself to be of the more monochrome way of thinking. Things don’t have to be black and white, it just takes a little more effort to realise that.