Apocalyptic Thinking. The type of thinking you know very well, but haven’t quite put a name to.
Apocalyptic Thinking affects us all.
Sometimes it can save us from legit harm and risk.
Most of the time it holds us back from pursuing what we truly want.
The big issue is that most of us don’t recognize it for what it is even when we’re experiencing it.
Left unnoticed, Apocalyptic Thinking can rot our dreams from within, before we even give ourselves the chance to fulfill them.
Here’s what it is and how to lessen its negative affects on you.
WHAT IS IT?
Apocalyptic Thinking involves a series of thoughts that start out in a negative direction and quickly escalate to worst-case scenario thoughts and beliefs.
When we’re stressed, not absorbing the optimal nutrients our bodies and brains need, not getting our blood flowing through exercise (ie. overall not optimizing our brain), our mental health starts to get fatigued by daily tasks and starts to try to conserve energy.
For a healthy person, when something goes wrong, they have the mental capacity to put it into perspective, recognize the negative pattern and take action to break the pattern and get back on track.
When our brain health isn’t optimized, it does everything it can to conserve energy and effort, thus it takes short cuts to the most extreme thoughts and beliefs.
Instead of thinking of the bigger picture, analyzing the situation and making the effort to break the pattern, it jumps right to the worst-case scenario, leaving us in a state of fear and anxiety.
Our stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are triggered and we feel the need to make decisions immediately to stop feeling terrible.
We do whatever we can to get out of the situation (and the feeling) as quickly as possible.
While this approach can be effective for improving how we feel in that short-term moment, it often leads to more problems and ongoing struggles.
What’s needed in these situations is a game plan to solve, rather than eliminate the challenge.
When we solve the challenge, we can move beyond it.
When we simply eliminate it, additional challenges are often presented.
Here are some ideas to avoid Apocalyptic Thinking the next time something goes wrong…
AVOOIDING APOCALYPTIC THINKING
The first step to avoiding Apocalyptic Thinking is to recognize when you’re slipping towards it. These are the initial moments or hours when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, upset. You can’t do anything about your negative thoughts unless you first become aware that you’re thoughts have turned negative. One simple strategy is to do check ins throughout the day, asking yourself how your day is going, how you’re feeling, where your mood’s at. By asking ourselves these simple questions, we build awareness that allows us to recognize when things are slipping.
If you recognize negative thought flow, you need to break the pattern. Our brains love patterns, and once they lock into one, it goes on autopilot (again, to conserve energy). Autopilot in a negative pattern can quickly turn into Apocalyptic Thinking and all of a sudden you’ve dropped out, cancelled, give up. Breaking the pattern takes conscious effort. It’s not the easy choice to go for a run when you feel like shit, even though you know it’ll make you feel better. But the right path is sometimes the more difficult one. If you have a number of strategies to pull from, chances are you’ll always have one you’re willing to take. Some strategies I use are: support network (talking to people I can trust and rely on), exercise, good food (ie. smoothies), clearing my schedule, resting, going for a walk, medication, deep breathing, getting productive. There are limitless strategies. Write a list on your phone and refer to it when you know you need it next.
3. CHECK IN
Once you’ve broken the pattern (or thought you have), it’s important to check in. A simple check in can be with yourself. Since you’re always with yourself, this option is always available to you. Other options are to check in with your partner, family, friends, mentors or colleagues. Finally, if you have a counsellor, you can check in with her/him during your next visit. It’s important to check in to make sure you have broken the pattern and that you’ve gotten back to an empowering mindset. Just because you avoided Apocalyptic Thinking doesn’t mean you’re feeling empowered and the lukewarm soup of meritocracy is just as damaging as Apocalyptic Thinking. During your check in, ask yourself the same questions as before – how your day is going, how you’re feeling, etc.. and apply your wellness strategies until you feel empowered and strong.
With awareness and these simple strategies, you can remove this barrier to performing at a higher level, feeling great and fulfilling your goals and dreams. If it’s a common problem for you, it will take some time to re-wire your brain to avoid, but I hope this article has shown you it’s possible and worth it. Your dreams matter and removing barriers in the way of them is the fastest way to fulfilling them.
Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below to let me know.
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