“Catastrophizing” life in the midst of COVID-19
Feeling like it’s the end of the world…
It had been one week since I’d been to the grocery store. I had just moved across the country from Arizona to Connecticut and needed some supplies. It’s very difficult with a cross-country move to haul what you need on a daily basis. You need every inch of room to pack up the truck. The problem with this is, once we arrived in Connecticut, naturally, we didn’t have the things we need to live on a daily basis – who does with a big move like that?
So once we arrived in our new home, we decided to go to the store. Costco, here we come! The parking lot looked like every Costco parking lot – always full. But as we walked inside, it was chaos. My husband and I are very efficient shoppers. We divide and conquer. But this, this was different. There was a sense of urgency and fear in the store. People were pushing others out of the way to get what they “need”. One person had so much toilet paper, he couldn’t see over the mound to steer his cart. He had bundles of it in his arms and pushed people away when they tried to get some. I understand that toilet paper is a need but to what extent? Fear was taking over.
We are all scared right now. Our world is changing. Times like this is when we start catastrophizing and thinking about the worst-case scenario. The problem with this mindset is, we don’t consider the other scenarios that could happen. We follow the worst and let it consume us — to the point where we disregard everyone else. That scares me more than the virus. When people let the worst be true in their minds, they are more likely to disregard others. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves or our families. But there are healthier ways to approach stressful times.
It doesn’t have to be the worst-case scenario
One way to avoid “catastrophizing” life is to consider the best-case scenario and the most likely scenario (instead of only the worst scenario). For example, best-case scenario would be that this will eventually blow over and we will all be ok. The most likely scenario will be that we will face unprecedented challenges ahead, and find ways to adapt.
Grocery stores have pick-up and delivery. This isn’t the only day that the stores will be open. Each state is taking precautions and putting guidelines in place. You, yourself, are making changes to stay safe and healthy. There are resources out there to help you get through this.
I would also recommend downloading the CBT Thought Diary app. It will help with some of your negative cognitions like catastrophizing. It will talk you through what is going on and how to change your perspective. You could reach out for mental health support at a place like Elevate Counseling and schedule an appointment. Therapists who specialize in anxiety can help you with managing your fears in a time like this.
One final thought. It might be wise to avoid prolonged episodes on social media. I can tell you from experience that I spent some time on Facebook recently and started my own worst scenario spiral. Instead of continuing to scroll through Facebook, I went to my CBT Thought Diary app and processed my catastrophic thoughts so that I could focus on the facts.
Jill Johnson, MA, LAC, helps teens and adults overcome barriers caused by depression, anxiety, and trauma. Specialties include: Adult issues, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, grief and trauma, and supporting family members impacted by addiction. To Schedule with Jill, contact Elevate Counseling.