The "WIM" plants this little land mine in our head and, since what we focus on expands, the next thing you know we're out the door down the street around the corner on the freeway going 100 mph and we haven't even gotten out of bed yet. It's called catastrophizing, the proverbial making a mountain out of a molehill. So now what?
The first thing is to realize we're having the thought before we can stop it. Seems obvious, right? But not always that easy, especially if our default setting is to go straight into crisis mode. Some people shout "Stop!" or make a loud noise. Others may snap a rubber band around their wrist. Whatever works. Of course, if we can think to do this we're already three-quarters of the way to stopping the attack.
Now we need to stay calm and assess the situation. Easier said than done when all the danger neurons in our brain are firing in a nano second. This is why taking a few deep breaths is helpful as it increases needed oxygen to the brain for clear thinking (it also prevents hyperventilation and lessens the likelihood of a panic attack). And to deep breathe we have to focus on breathing so our attention shifts away from the "What if?" thought.
So now we can more calmly and objectively analyze and challenge the irrational thought. Think of ourselves as a lawyer in court questioning a hostile witness. "Where's the proof? Who says it's true? What's the likelihood it will happen? If it does happen how bad could it be? How would I deal with it? What can I do to prevent it?"
Now we're controlling the thought, not it controlling us. Time to move forward.
Next time: Thought Shifting.
(Here's a great resource: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD. About $18)
*Note: This post first published 5/7/2014