December 4, 2022

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5 ways to protect yourself from catastrophic thinking

6 min read

Disaster thinking, in its simplest form, is when an individual assumes the worst is going to happen. If a person sees an unfavorable outcome of an event and then decides whether it will happen, the outcome will be disaster.

Catastrophic thinking means accepting a setback for the worst possible outcome. The saying that if you play country songs backwards you get your job back, your pickup truck back and your lady back is the opposite of disaster thinking!

Negative or catastrophic thinking plays a very important role in sports. Therefore, many examples from this world are given.

What is catastrophe thinking?

According to Psychology Today, catastrophic thinking can be described as rumination over irrational worst-case outcomes. Two common ways to describe catastrophic thinking are “making a mountain out of a molehill” and “inflating things disproportionately.”

An example would be your boss making a derogatory remark about your work. Then you take that comment to the conclusion that he will fire you and you will never find a job again and end up homeless.

A second example would be if you fail this exam you will fail the course. If you fail this course, you will never graduate. If you don’t graduate, you’ll never get a job and you’ve wasted a lot of time and money on college.

These aren’t true, and it’s about changing your perspective on the situation. Here are five tips on how to stop disaster thinking.

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How to stop catastrophic thinking

1. The philosophy of Lou Holtz

When Lou Holtz coached football at the University of Notre Dame, he told his players:

“Things are never as bad as they seem, nor as good as they seem. They are somewhere in the middle.”

This is especially true in the sports world. If you can accept this Lou Holtz philosophy, you will never be too low when times are tough and you will never be too high when times are good. You will not fall into catastrophe thinking after losses or setbacks.

2. Access your thoughts

If you find yourself falling into negative thoughts about a situation, find a quiet place and journal. Once you have your catastrophe thinking on paper and see the thoughts, you can analyze them more clearly.

Do not wait. Write them down, assess how realistic they are, and approach them with a more pragmatic approach.

3. Perspectives and positive affirmations

If negative thinking crops up in a situation, put it into perspective. Tell yourself to “stop,” and then examine the problem from all perspectives—positive, negative, and neutral. Realize that thoughts are just thoughts. They are not taking place now. We project a catastrophe, but often that projection never materializes.

Instead of slipping into negativity, sit down and analyze the problem from all perspectives. If disaster strikes, how bad will it be? Can we recover from this? Will it destroy our company and our team or is it an obstacle in the way that we can deal with?

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Positive affirmations, along with breathing exercises, can turn negatives into positives. A study was conducted at Harvard which concluded that inhaling through the nose for a count of three, followed by exhaling through the mouth for a count of at least six relaxes the body. Once the body is relaxed, you can feed your mind positive affirmations.

When some basketball players go to the free-throw line, they tell themselves that they’re not good free-throw takers. If you say that often enough, you’ll believe it.

Other players step up to the line and give themselves positive affirmation. Before they kick the ball, they say “swish” or “you fouled the wrong guy” to boost their confidence.

4. Attitude of Gratitude

When disaster thinking enters your mind, you become a disaster thinker. Fight it with everything you’ve been given.

There was one teacher in our local school district who displayed a particularly grateful attitude. His name was Jack Hermanski.

He was a special education teacher and served eight different schools in adaptive physical education. Actually, he could only have become a physical education teacher in the district, which was not a demanding job. However, he chose his special children, even though they bit him, vomited, and defecated on him. He loved them and gave them everything because they were “His” children.

He walked into one of his schools on a Friday and a boy in a wheelchair greeted him saying he was glad it was Friday. Jack responded by asking him if he had any big plans for the weekend. The boy said, “No, you come to our school on Fridays.”

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Jack was happiest when he had a boy in one of his classes who was so afraid of water that he couldn’t put his hand in a bucket of water. It took Jack three years to work with him and finally the day came when the boy lost his fear of water and jumped out of the high dive! Jack was smitten with the boy.

What made Jack’s work even more extraordinary was that he had accomplished so much for his children while battling multiple sclerosis for over 25 years. But you never heard him complain about it.

He simply ministered to everyone he worked with and often spoke about the fact that so many people were worse off than he was. He was grateful for everything he had and never lost sight of the blessings he had.

Given the fact that his multiple sclerosis had limited him, he could easily have slipped into catastrophic thinking, but he never lost his gratitude!

5. Exercise and Fatigue

Practice and fatigue are at two ends of the totem pole. Exercise encourages positive thinking, while fatigue can lead to disastrous thinking. Catastrophic thinking can cause anxiety and lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

When we exercise, we release serotonin, which leads to positive feelings. Any exercise like walking, yoga or Pilates puts us in a good state of mind to make informed decisions. However, fatigue can easily lead to disaster thinking. So we need to practice self-care.

Fatigue must be closely monitored in sports. At the beginning of a basketball season, you need to take the time to inculcate all of your fundamentals lessons and your game strategies in your players.

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This can and will lead to longer exercises. However, as the season progresses, fatigue is your biggest foe and you need to cut back on your training times to keep your players fresh for games.

One coach feared fatigue so much that he never trained the night before a game. His reasoning was that if you gave your players a night off, they would return to the gym refreshed for the next workout. So why not come to the games refreshed and ready to play?

Most coaches wouldn’t have the guts to give their players the night before a game. Instead, they would want to finalize and edit the key points of the game plan.

Conclusion

It’s never easy to pull everyone together and keep fighting. Whether job, career, relationship, health or freedom, everything can wear us down if we don’t know how to deal with it.

Often we crash and accept that it’s the end. However, it is only the end if we so choose. There are ways we can combat our catastrophic thinking, and using any or all of these five concepts will help you avoid falling into catastrophic thinking.

Realizing that you can reverse this is a great way to combat negative thoughts. After all, it’s our thoughts. We should control them and focus our mind on what we want to achieve.

If you think negatively, you can only expect to pave the way to failure. But if you think differently, believe in yourself, and practice the art of positive thinking, chances are you’ll achieve better results.

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If all else fails, it would be easier for you to get up. You’ve done it before, you’ll surely do it again.

Featured Photo Credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

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