Tips on How to Manage Catastrophic Thinking

May 20, 2024

By: Deedra Everett, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

Catastrophic thinking often creeps in when we’re faced with uncertainty or stress. It’s that voice in our heads that jumps to the worst-case scenario, leaving us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and flooded. Our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and stress hormones are released as our brain activates the sympathetic nervous system. This is also known as the “fight or flight or freeze” response.

This physical response prepares the body to deal with the threat and keep us safe! However, in cases of catastrophic thinking, this response can become exaggerated, leading to excessive worry and fear about potential outcomes. In that old reptilian part of our brain, the worst-case scenario could be that we are eaten by a giant predator lurking behind a boulder! Managing catastrophic thinking isn’t about never thinking about the worst-case scenario—it’s about finding a balance. By understanding and working with our nervous systems we can learn to regulate and improve resiliency.

Here are 5 ways we can help our children and ourselves to relax our nervous system and calm those “worst case scenario” thoughts.


Practice Co-Regulation:

As a parent, your calm presence can have a profound impact on your child’s nervous system. Your ability to regulate your own nervous system can help your child feel safe. Connect with your child and lend them your regulation – we are wired to be tuned in to each other!

Teach Relaxation Techniques:

Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. These techniques can help calm their nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Encourage Positive Self-Talk:

Help your child reframe negative thoughts into more positive and realistic ones. Encourage them to challenge their catastrophic thoughts by asking questions like, “What evidence do you have that this will happen?” or “What’s another way to look at this situation?

Encourage Physical Activity:

Physical activity can help regulate the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Practice Self-Care:

Prioritize self-care activities that help regulate your own nervous system, such as meditation, exercise, or spending time in nature. This will help you stay regulated so that you can regulate with your child.

Interested in connecting with Deedra for counseling services? Contact us!

Until next time, Be Wise!