Combating Catastrophic Thinking through Mindfulness and Self-Care
Most of us don’t do well with uncertainty. When situations arise that are out of our control, it can be incredibly stressful. With the news flooding the airwaves and social media about the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Pandemic, and the world changing around us every day, unfortunately, there is uncertainty everywhere we turn.
While it’s natural to have anxiety over this kind of crisis, it’s important to find ways to cope. Avoiding catastrophic thinking, and, instead, focusing on mindfulness and self-care is a great way to start, says Dr. Ankila Chandran, Jefferson Health New Jersey Psychiatrist.
Catastrophic thinking is incredibly common, and you may be doing it without even realizing. Catastrophic thinking is when we are concerned to an extent that it impacts our daily functionality and productivity; we worry about the future and obsess over “what-if scenarios.”
“To combat catastrophic thinking, you should take everything day by day,” explained Dr. Chandran. “You can’t fix what is out of your control. Instead, focus on what you can control: things that are certain and constant. Maybe it’s knowing your dog loves you; you can take a walk around your neighborhood; you can recite a prayer that soothes you; or you can listen to your favorite song.”
If you’re staying home to support social distancing, or because you’re unable to work, there has probably been a drastic shift in your daily schedule. With more free time on your plate, you can practice mindfulness and self-care, rather than turning to unhealthy habits. Studies have shown that both can significantly reduce stress and anxiety.
“Mindfulness is about being fully aware of your body and your surroundings. It’s often done through meditation or breathing exercises; however, it can be simpler than that,” explained Dr. Chandran. “If you’re drinking a glass of water, drink it slowly, close your eyes, and pay attention to how it feels in your body. Believe it or not, this can help calm you, clear your mind, and even give you new perspectives.”
Self-care – which goes hand-in-hand – is not just another term for pampering. It can be beneficial to have a comforting, beauty or skin-care routine; however, self-care also requires you to meet your most basic health needs. It’s essential to check in on yourself, the same way you would check in on your children or parents, says Dr. Chandran.
“Often our days are so hectic, and our minds so cluttered, we lose track of whether or not we are taking care of ourselves,” continued Dr. Chandran. “You can’t just focus on taking care of others. The more you ignore your own needs, the more likely you are to become angry or burnt-out. It helps to keep a simple checklist that you can go through at the end of each day. Did you take your medication? Did you eat enough? Are you going to bed by a decent time?”
Having this kind of schedule, even while staying home, is key to staying on top of your mental, physical, and emotional health. The answer to avoiding catastrophic thinking and reducing stress isn’t do nothing. Remember, be productive, do what you enjoy, and stay safe and healthy!