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Don’t Turn Worry into a Catastrophe

Don’t Turn Worry into a Catastrophe

Hundreds of movies and TV shows from On the Beach (1959) to Falling Skies (2011) seem designed to express your secret fears (and, say some doctors, dispel the anxiety that fuels those worries). But in the movie of your life, assuming your future is going to be filled with doom and gloom makes it difficult for you to be healthy and productive.

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Catastrophizing and anxiety can contribute to heart disease, gastrointestinal distress, respiratory conditions and chronic pain disorders. It also obliterates the positive things you can do to improve your life and the lives of those around you. So if think it may be time to rescript the doomsday scenes in your life, try this:

Write down your worries. You’ll see how often you think of disastrous things. Then when you imagine a catastrophe (My boss disagreed with me, I am going to get fired!) you can consciously counter it. (Maybe he wants an open discussion, so we can get the best results. I’ll ask.)

Related: How social anxiety can lead to catastrophizing

And consider this four-step journey to optimism:

  1. A daily walk of 30 to 60 minutes—aiming for 10,000 steps every day, no excuses. Dispelling stress through physical activity is calming and empowering.
  2. Do something special (big or small) for a friend or family member once a week. The positive feedback will start you looking happily forward to next week’s interaction.
  3. Practice mindfulness meditation 15 minutes a day.
  4. Volunteer at a community center or charity; focus your attention on helping make the world better for others. The rewards are, well, apocalyptic!

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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