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Lions & Tigers & COVID-19, Oh My!

It's hard to live in reality when there is mass pandemonium and panic surrounding us. We are receiving messages from the media encouraging us to live in a state of fear, and assume the worse. This triggers the alarm centers in our brain, which, although adaptive, can over-generalize and over-emphasize a sense of impending danger. This can lead to catastrophic thinking: thinking in "extremes" and living in the "worst case scenario."

When we catastrophize, we believe something is far worse than it actually is— either present-focused or future-focused.

Catastrophizing Examples

  • getting called into your boss’s office and assuming your job is in jeopardy

  • Disagreeing with a friend and thinking they no longer want to be your friend

  • Scoring poorly on a test and thinking you won’t get into college

  • Thinking your cat ran away because they aren’t where they usually are when you get home from work

  • Feeling under the weather and assuming you have the Corona Virus

Here are 4 tips to help you manage extreme catastrophic thoughts:

  1. Acknowledge that unpleasant things happen. One bad event doesn’t mean you’re doomed forever

  2. Check the facts: how objectively true is this thought? What’s the probability that this will happen? What else could be happening instead? What other positive outcomes could occur?

  3. Say, “STOP!” These words can arrest the stream of thoughts from continuing

  4. Increase self-care. Engage in stress-relieving activities such as meditation, journaling, light exercise/ joyful movement. We are more vulnerable to catastrophic thinking when we are tired and have compromised internal coping resources

Did I Mention Self-Care?

You can allow yourself to feel scared and anxious, but don't let these thoughts and feelings take over your life. Sometimes writing our thoughts down can help us examine them more objectively. Be kind to yourself, nourish yourself, and get plenty of sleep. The goal is to enhance internal resources that allow you to think flexibly, examine your thoughts, and stay grounded.

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