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  • Writer's pictureJason Ranieri

Coping With Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

When it comes to crises like the COVID-19 it’s easy to have “worst-case scenario thoughts” and slip into fatalistic thinking. With case numbers rising and the death toll going up, it’s natural to feel anxious and fearful. Our thoughts can run away from us and we imagine nothing but the worst. Thoughts in our mind start hammering us and the internal voice says things like, “Everyone is going to die. We are all going to run out of money. There will be chaos.” The anxiety and fear can become too much to manage and we can slip into fatalistic thinking. Fatalism is the other side of catastrophic thinking. It causes our internal voice to say things like, “It doesn’t matter what I’m do. I’m going to get sick and die anyway.”

It’s rational during a global crisis to have fear and anxiety. It’s even natural to imagine the worst-case scenarios. And, this type of thinking must be managed in order for us to be able to survive this crisis emotionally and physically. If we allow our thoughts to run away from us, we become much less effective in taking are of ourselves and others who we love.

Some tips to help you manage catastrophic and fatalistic thinking include:

1. Awareness This is where a mindfulness practice comes in handy. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. They act as guides to help you manage a crisis. And, it’s important to identify when your thoughts are hijacking your ability to think clearly and manage your feelings. Take a few deep breaths when you notice that your thoughts are headed toward catastrophe and fatalism.

2. Control the things you can Out of awareness, you realize that your thoughts have run away from you. You envision doom and you may start believing that there is no way to avoid this certain doom. Talk back to these thoughts and take a few steps back. Look at the bigger picture. Your mind is correct in thinking that you cannot help that there is a virus out there that is spreading and our economy is tanking. You can take concrete steps like staying at home, when you go out you practice social distancing, you wash your hands with soap and water frequently, and you prevent yourself from making unnecessary purchases on your favorite shopping network. Focus on what you can do to help make it through this crisis.

3. Meet your fear Your fears are not going away so face up to them. Examine them. Are there rational thoughts that are coming out of your fears that you can do something about? If so, take action. Unexamined fear gives rise to anxiety, anger, and hopelessness. Know your fear. True courage is feeling the fear and continuing to take reasonable action.

4. Challenge your thoughts Start thinking of best-case scenarios to combat your worst-case scenarios Start talking back to your internal voice with saying things like, “I will make it through this crisis. I can meet all my needs today. Society will still function.” Examine the possibilities of your best-case scenarios and identify the possibilities that are likely to come true.

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