I have been very anxious lately, not an uncommon experience for many of us on the autistic spectrum. Even when it is something good or exciting it can still produce anxiety. There are all the what if questions and then the mind starts to think of every possible scenario that can go wrong.
I’ve got a lot happening in the next month – exciting things, things I am looking forward to:
My 32nd wedding anniversary, developments in my personal autistic advocacy, birthdays (not my own). All pleasurable things for the most part. The anxiety is giving me some vivid dreams about how any one of these can go spectacularly wrong in many different ways.
I think part of the problem is the autistic tendency to think and think and think again. Overthinking and perseverating create more imaginary problems than actual problems. Some call it a flaw but I actually like the ability to think through what can go wrong and plan as much as possible to avoid such disasters but it does get tiring going though almost literally 101 scenarios. Sometimes the overthinking leads to, not only thinking that something will go wrong, but that the going wrong will be a spectacular catastrophe.
So what is Catastrophizing?
There are two parts:
The first is predicting a negative outcome, so thinking something will go wrong.
The second part is leaping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.
Rationally and logically I know that a catastrophe is unlikely, but that doesn’t stop the scenarios playing in my head.
So I have been working on techniques to improve this area of my life. Haven’t got it sorted but I have become more mindful of the things that help in this area:
Exercise: having good endorphins helps to counter depression and can make me less anxious and worried
Time: I make sure I spend at least some time doing the things I enjoy that give me pleasure
Being aware: that not every negative outcome will result in an outright catastrophe and most negative outcomes are manageable…the old “nothing is as bad as it seems”
Avoid talking about it repeatedly. I find if I start talking about it I have more of a tendency to dwell on it. So writing it down and leaving it in my journal gets it out of my system without bugging others about the anxious thoughts endlessly.
Keeping busy: distraction is a great tool and helps keeps my mind busy with other, usually more helpful, thoughts.
In the meantime I won’t be letting my anxiety hold me back, I’ve too much I want to do, see, and experience. I’m lucky, my anxiety isn’t crippling although it is challenging.