Monday, 23 August 2021

How to stop catastrophising

I recently watched a Tara Brabazon vlog (2021) which detailed ten tips to help us stop creating our own dramas, or as she said, to stop 'catastrophising'. Wow: what a kick in the pants this was!

To begin with, she so rightly pointed out that if we first determine what the problem is, we are halfway to solving it. The first tip then is to take stock before behaving like a two year old: to "frame it, label it, and understand it" (8:45). Excellent advice! She called the drama summoning out as being a habit: and I feel she is right. Once we start to let go, we can keep letting go. Then we get stuck in the drama of letting go and forget how to stop creating the tantrum. We initially do it to cope. But then we forget to stop doing it once we are coping again.

The ten tips which followed are: "frame and label the issue carefully" (7:05); stop buying into other people's drama (10:04); "live in [...]our present" (14:00); "avoid self pity", and take action (16:00); "know that [we] can cope" (18:00), or that we will be OK; "don't confuse thought with reality" (20.48); keep a reflective journal, and consider both the best and worst outcomes (22:58); "decrease [...]our options and reduce [...]our choices" (26:00), narrowing our scope and staying focused, do not dwelling on freedom of choice; "value [ourselves] on [...]our own terms" (28:50), which has quite a lot of cross-over with the second point; "be kind to" ourselves (33:25).

The elements which I found particularly useful were the following:

  • Stop buying into other people's drama. We must remember to create emotional distance when there is a problem. We need to step back, and think clearly about what is within our own span of control, our own sphere of interest, and draw a line around that. If we can do that, then we can then work out what is actually within the span of control of others, or in others' sphere of interest. We can be deliberate about choosing to only consider our own 'stuff'... and choosing what we can let go, and to stop poisoning ourselves with our own narrative.
  • Take action. Tara's rather brutal advice is to stop dwelling on how we feel, and to start DOING. Focus outward on tasks, not inward on emotion. While this is easy to say, it is hard to do. To make progress in this area, we need excellent planning, and we need to stop ourselves dwelling in, as Eckhart Tolle says, our 'pain body' (1999). We need to put aside the hurt, our drama, our crisis; and focus on getting on with our lives, our task, our project, our research.
  • We will be OK. We may not get things done perfectly, but probably whatever we do get done will be enough. We will be OK. The world probably won't end. The worst probably won't happen, but even if it does, we will still be OK. We can let go of the outcome, and just live with what we can achieve.
  • Focusing on focus. We need to ensure that we choose wisely, and spend our scarce resources wisely. We cannot get our work, our project, our research done if we are not putting aside the time to get it done. Focus will get us through, but doing too much other stuff will not get us through. We need to simply focus on doing the things that will get us done. 
  • Reframing. Firstly asking 'what's the worst that could happen?', and then answering it for ourselves, will help us to stop worrying about a vague future that is likely not to happen anyway. Once we have identified a potential future, we can then let that future go, and focus on what we can control.  

All good advice. Not easy to do, but we can start to take these steps to improve.


Sam

References:

  • Brabazon, T. (23 April 2021). Vlog 266 - Catastrophizing [video]. Office of Graduate Research Flinders University. https://youtu.be/N3nKVvogZrQ
  • Tolle, E. (1999). The Power of Now. Namaste Publishing & New World Library.

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