Calming the Storm: Overcoming Worry and Catastrophic Thinking in Your Family

May 15, 2024

Do you often find your family members overwhelmed with big emotions, leading to worry and catastrophic thinking?

The fight or flight response can easily take over when emotions run high, causing stress and tension within the family. In this blog post, learn from two of our WISE team members as they explore strategies to calm the storm of worry in your family and foster a more peaceful and resilient environment.

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling 

One skill I enjoy teaching clients is the best versus worst-case scenario technique. This skill is used as a grounding technique, aiding in emotional regulation, and providing a reality check that things aren’t always as dire as we might perceive. Catastrophic thinking is a cognitive distortion wherein individuals assume negative outcomes for certain situations. Contrasting the best and worst-case scenarios is beneficial because it instills hope and alleviates symptoms of anxiety. While it’s simpler to assume the worst, with practice, this skill can help individuals and their loved ones reconsider potential outcomes.

Katie Thompson, Supervisee in Social Work

In my experience, catastrophic thinking is contagious! For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many families felt trapped in catastrophic thinking, looking to each other for answers, only to find more “what-ifs” and worst case scenarios. It’s only natural to look to loved ones when we feel a bit lost. Our loved ones can provide comfort, perspective, and a feeling that we are not alone. However, if they too feel anxious, the feeling may overwhelm us both, possibly dysregulating the entire family. However, families can use catastrophic thinking as an opportunity to connect, investigating the thought by asking questions such as:
-What is the evidence that this could actually happen?
-What is the evidence that it couldn’t happen?
-What if it did happen? Realistically, we would support each other as a family and be okay.
-Is this thought helpful or harmful?
When families address catastrophic thinking as a team, the family can develop deeper feelings of trust, safety, and connection.

Until next time, Stay Wise!