Queen of Catastrophizing

December 1, 2015

Catastrophizing, Catastrophize, Anxiety, Panic, Panic Attack

I’d like to thank God, my parents, my siblings, my family, my friends and my two adorable dogs for all their support….

What?  This crown is not one to be grateful for or proud of?  Buggar!  I’ve always wanted to do an acceptance speech!!

…oooOOOooo…

Hello!  I am Min, Queen of Catastrophizing.  Pleased to meet you!

Just a heads up … Catastrophizing is not a town, city or country unfortunately.  So what does it mean?

Catastrophizing: to view or present a situation as considerably worse than it actually is

Look, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but give me any situation and within minutes I can have a list of worse case scenarios ready and waiting for you!  Not only that but I can get visions of what your life will be like after that worse case scenario takes place.  It’s a gift!  If you need my services, I am here for you! 

To be completely honest, Catastrophizing is a symptom of anxiety.  Anxiety joined me as a constant companion about 3-4 years ago.  It travels everywhere with me nowadays.  Sheesh what a freeloader!  It’s ok – I’ve become quite good at telling it to shut up or even just ignoring it.  Sometimes I even forget it is there.  Other times it catches me unaware and it takes over.

For years I’ve blamed my anxiety on the chronic stress and incident that lead to me walking out of my previous workplace, but I do believe that much of it can be attributed to my stage of life – the menopausal years.  Oh yay!

I’ve not always been an anxious person, or even a worrier.  I was not a particularly anxious or worried child or teenager.  I also have no recollection of any excessive worrying or anxiety in my 20’s.  Nothing much phased me!  The first memories of any worry or anxiety are from after I became a parent and was responsible for other lives.  However, not the kind of anxiety I suffer from now.  

Anxiety for me these days can take the forms of excessive worry, overwhelm, catastrophizing, and sometimes even panic attacks.

Here’s some examples of me catastrophizing:

Catastrophizing Example 1
Daughter finishes work at 6:00pm.  It’s a 5-10 minute drive home.  At 6:45pm she is still not home. 

What goes on in my head:

  • Someone has entered her workplace and attacked her.
  • She’s been abducted or attacked as she’s walked from her workplace to her car. 
  • She’s been in a car accident on the way home. 
  • Police will be knocking on my door any minute.
  • My mind races through every possible worse case scenario.  I have visions of the police breaking the news to me of each of these scenarios, how I am likely to react (not well!), and what my life will be like thereafter (over!).

Reality:

  • She is catching up on some paperwork and/or has worked late and arrives home soon after my panic has set in.

Catastrophizing Example 2
Phone rings any time after 8:30pm or before 7:30am.

What goes on in my head:

  • OMG No!  I’m not answering. Something bad has happened.  Someone else answer please!
  • One of my parents has died.
  • Something has happened to one of my siblings.
  • Someone in my family has been in a bad accident.

Reality:

  • It’s usually no big deal.  If AM – could be someone for hubby trying to catch him before he leaves for work.  If it’s PM – it can sometimes be one of my sisters.

Catastrophizing Example 3
I haven’t heard from a friend for a while

What goes on in my head:

  • I must have said something stupid.  What did I say? 
  • Did I do something?  Oh God what stupid thing did I do?
  • Did I forget something?  A birthday?  An anniversary?
  • My brain runs over and over every conversation with this person that I have had that I can remember, searching for the thing I said or did that has caused my friend to no longer want to be my friend because of course they no longer want to be my friend!!

Reality:

  • Usually they’ve just been busy and haven’t had a chance to call and catch up with me. 

Catastrophizing Example 4
One of my kids is out at night.  I text to ask what time they’ll be home and/or if they’ll be home for dinner.  No response.  1 hour later – still no response.

What goes on in my head:

  • OMG – Something has happened.  It’s been an hour! 
  • They’ve been attacked!  They’re in trouble!  They are lying beaten on the side of a road!  They’ve been in an accident!
  • The police will come to the door soon.  They’ll ask me to sit down. 
  • I hear the words the police will say to me.  I see myself from above let out a guttural scream.  I can see the devastation.
  • My life is over!

Reality:

  • There was no coverage for their phone where they were; or
  • Their phone had a flat battery.

Catastrophizing Example 5
It’s late at night.  One or more of my kids are out.  I hear a siren.  The piercing urgent sounds of a siren!

What goes on in my head:

  • My heart starts to race.  I feel sick in my stomach.
  • What has happened?  Is that an ambulance?  OMG what if it is my kid!  It could be!!
  • Immediately send a text or FB msg to kid/s who is out to confirm if they are alive.
  • If they reply – heart rate returns to normal.  Normal activity resumes.
  • If they don’t reply.  Pop on the Queen of Catastrophizing crown and watch my anxiety get out of control!

I told you.  I have a gift.   I feel for my kids sometimes – when I’m in full blown catastrophizing/panic attack mode.  For anyone else who has suffered as a result of my catastrophizing talents, I do apologise!   It’s a gift that I’d be quite happy to pass on.  No really – it would be my pleasure.  I can’t have everything!  Anyone else want to be Queen of Catastrophizing? 

What do I do to help STOP my catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing for me is a sign of the onset of panic or even a panic attack.  It’s when my heart is beating way too fast and the anxiety is taking over.  It’s a warning that I need to STOP and try to calm the F down.  What strategy do I use?  Hmmm … well I haven’t quite mastered this, but I do try and this is what I do:

  • Recognise that I’m catastrophizing
  • STOP what I’m doing
  • Sit somewhere comfortable
  • Close my eyes
  • Concentrate on my breathing.  Slow it down.  In through my nose.  Out through my mouth.
  • Deep breaths.  In.  Out.
  • Once feeling calmer,  I
    (1) try to think of the more rational explanation for the situation,
    (2) try to think of a sensible way that I might be able to quell my fears.
  • Continue focussing on my breath till I feel calm enough to resume normal activity.

Do you catastrophize?  What strategies do you use to help you stop?  Let me know if you think you are worthy of the Queen of Catastrophizing crown and if you meet the criteria, I’ll gladly pass it on!

Ciao for now,

Min-Signature

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

 

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32 Comments

  • Reply Trish December 1, 2015 at 7:19 am

    oh MIn , this resonates with me so much.
    I’m sorry you have to deal with this too.
    My head is overwhelmed with all forms of excessive worry (cancer x 3 thanks for that) , catastrophizing, and it’s always there.
    Thank you for the tips I will try them.

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Trish, I’m so sorry you wear this crown also. Your Cx3 would certainly be very good fodder for anxiety and catastrophizing. Huge big hugs from one Queen to another. xoxo

  • Reply Ingrid @ Fabulous and Fun Life December 1, 2015 at 7:48 am

    I have a tendency to catastrophize as well! It is so exhausting! Thanks for the tips!

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      No problem. I hope they help and YES it is SO exhausting! *sigh* xo

  • Reply PatrickC December 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Min,

    a very brave and, well humorously written post that details a really debilitating part of anxiety. The good thing however is that you are recognising it and taking steps to mitigate its worst effects and impacts.

    Good for you because that’s a sign of great strength.

    Good fortune as you journey forward into 2016.

    Ciao,

    Patrick

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Thank you Patrick. I figured humour was the best approach for this topic and let’s face it, some of the places that my mind goes are quite hilarious (in hindsight)! Good fortune to you also as you journey forward into 2016. I hope it is a very rewarding year for you! πŸ™‚ xo

  • Reply Nicole @ The Builders Wife December 1, 2015 at 11:40 am

    THIS. IS. ME! I cannot believe just how similar our thoughts are. It didn’t start for me until my first husband and I split up nearly 8 years ago and it’s been my constant companion since then. Difficult to manage, but with a good support network, we are trying. xx

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      So we are twins and didn’t even know it?!! Looks like you’ve been playing this game longer than me Nicole. I must pick your brain for strategies to help manage it. I do my best but I think I could do better. Big hugs! πŸ™‚ xo

  • Reply Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit December 1, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Oh yes. Particularly when I am already lacking resilience. Things seem so much worse then. I am often the strong wise one, and then there are the times when everything feels way more serious than it probably is.

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Ha – that is me too Leanne. I am often the strong, wise one that people come to with their problems or for advice. Then there is this other side of me that is ridiculous! xo

  • Reply Deb @ inner compass designs December 1, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Big hugs. honestly it is my meds most of all that made this catastrophizing a rare thing. Now when my mind goes there I can see it is not rational or a likely scenario. I try to ask myself if I have evidence especially the situation with a friend not being in touch, feeling let out etc. my mind goes to being about me but my clearer head realises lie is busy for everyone and they don’t hate me etc. xxxx

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks Deb – I’m so glad you’ve got it sorted. I’m still trying. It’s hard when your kids are older and your ability to keep them safe is no longer within your control. I’m not too bad with friends, however I’ve found my mind going to stupid places with regards to what I think other bloggers are thinking of me. Seriously my mind needs a good shake! πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply JF Gibson December 1, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Ha! Unfortunatley, yes I think you are queen of catastrophizing! I can be, but I’ve learned that if I don’t have any control over the situation, then I can’t be sure what the situation is, so I try to keep calm. It’s not easy though. You will get there though, x

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Yep I am the Queen! No-one has stepped up wanting the crown yet – geez! I think I have a few things against me – young adult kids still living at home but out at night a lot and in cars etc + my stage of life + I’m a worry wort! πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions December 1, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I must admit I do this when Dave is late home from work, he’s had a few work accidents these days, so when he is even a tiny bit late I start to think the worst. Or if the girls have been really quiet for a while I worry not that they are up to no good, but that they are dead, having choked on something or that a piece of furniture has fallen on them, totally ridiculous things, and I am always so relieved when all they’ve been doing is smearing my foundation on the carpet! I guess that’s one way to minimise the annoyance!

    I used to get really anxious in my late teens and early 20s but I don’t so much anymore, I think because I’ve learnt some pretty good strategies over the years to deal with it. I had my last panic attack at 21 or 22, thank God! My best strategy for dealing with the anxious feelings when they start to come on is to read, I find reading is a really good way for me to calm my mind.
    #teamIBOT

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      Ahhh Kylie – yes that sounds like how my mind operates. It’s interesting that you have had anxiety younger but not as bad now. I think I started to be a bit of a worrier once I became a mother so probably in my 30’s, worsening in my 40’s and now. It’s getting better I think – not quite as frequent. *touch wood* πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply Hugzilla December 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    In all seriousness, I recognise a lot of this in both of my parents. I have a very strong feeling that both of them have undiagnosed anxiety, because they catastrophise about the tiniest things. Interestingly, I have kind of made a point of flipping the other way as a reaction to that, and I tend to under-react to things. It’s hard to live in a constant state of stress, and that was my normal growing up.

    • Reply Min December 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Oh dear – both parents! Good for you for flipping the other way. Hope you can stay that way! Sometimes these things are beyond our absolute control. I can hand on heart say that I don’t live in a constant state of stress. Not these days. Possibly did when I was working full time, commuting 2 hrs per day and trying to run a house and juggle 3 kids and 3 schools! These days I’m pretty chilled. It’s just certain situations that trigger my anxiety and catastrophizing. I’ve got pretty good at not letting it impact my kids too. I generally suffer in silence but I’m getting better at calming myself and the frequency is much less these days! πŸ™‚ xo

  • Reply Renee Wilson December 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Min, move over. That crown is mine πŸ˜‰ Seriously, every single word you’ve written resonates with me. I am you. You are me. We need help πŸ˜‰ I drive my husband crazy with my catastrophising and I drive myself a little crazy too. Going for a long slow swim is the only thing that helps me. The only thing. Good luck with yours xx

    • Reply Min December 2, 2015 at 9:35 am

      At last! Someone who I can pass the crown on to! The responsibility and paparazzi attention was starting to be a bit much so I am ready to pass on the crown to a worthy recipient. Renee – you are a worthy recipient! I hereby crown you Queen of Catastrophizing and place the golden crown upon your head. May you represent catastrophizers with pride and dignity. Long live Renee, Queen of Catastrophizing! Now that I am a mere commoner with time on my hands, I think I might try your slow swim idea! πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply Janet aka Middle Aged Mama December 1, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Ooops and to think I never curtseyed whenever we met!!!! I totally get Number 2 x

    • Reply Min December 2, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Janet, I did notice the lack of curtsey’s when we met up but was willing to overlook it on account of our middle-aged camaraderie! haha πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid December 1, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I’m a bit of paradox, I’m cool as a cucumber in a crisis and I’m really good at looking on the bright side, but I do have a very active imagination and I can catastrophize like a boss! I too flip out if the phone rings too late or too early and if I phone my mum or the hubster and they don’t pick up, I contemplate phoning the local hospitals! I feel your pain. Top tips and clever tricks to keep calm here, I’m going to have to take a leaf out of your book! x

    • Reply Min December 2, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Sammie, I’m not sure that I would be cool as a cucumber in a crisis … most likely not, but I don’t want a crisis to test myself out! I can relate to calling family and if they don’t answer the mind and imagination going to town. That is probably what I should have put for example no. 6! xo

  • Reply Kathy December 2, 2015 at 9:14 am

    You poor thing Min – but you are looking at things honestly, and you can laugh about it too which is great. I’m actually pretty good at not getting overwhelmed with worry – I think the tightrope walking of hope/fear during so many IVF cycles cured me of worrying too much. I’m pretty calm and collected when under pressure now and was really pleased with how I handled one of the girls having a bout of asthma backstage at Miss Yin’s dance concert. I do get anxious about every day stuff though. Take care. X (Nice Queen pic BTW).

    • Reply Min December 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Thanks Kathy! I wasn’t always this way. I think it’s a combination of stage of life, having young adult kids out at night and driving etc, having aging parents, and who knows what else! Yep I can laugh about it because it actually is funny when reflecting back on it, not so funny when in the throws of it though. Glad you like the Queen Pic! πŸ™‚ xo

  • Reply EssentiallyJess December 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I can relate to this Min!
    Even today I’m wondering why Boatman hasn’t texted me today, and if there’s been any shark sightings near his work.

    • Reply Min December 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      Ahhh it’s an epidemic! I hope Boatman got home safely sans shark bites and with a valid explanation as to why he hadn’t texted you yet! LOL πŸ˜‰ xo

  • Reply stephanie@stephsjoy December 2, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I’m not one to jump into catastrophizing! However I do know others who do, so I appreciate what you mean! And you list to overcome it sounds realistic to do. xx

    • Reply Min December 4, 2015 at 6:13 am

      Lucky you Steph! Hope it stays that way for you πŸ™‚ xo

  • Reply Vanessa December 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I was doing it a bit yesterday in person and all over social media. Stupid sleep study. It was exactly as I knew it would be, so it wasn’t really catastrophizing (for once!) but it was knowing myself and that I wouldn’t like it.

    • Reply Min December 4, 2015 at 6:15 am

      It sounds like you’re really tuned into yourself and can recognise what’s catastrophizing and what is not which is a good thing Ness! πŸ™‚ xo

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