Bad events do happen, unpredictable events happen. For mental toughness we need to strive to keep negative events, together with our responses in proportion. We need to gain perspective, as some events are clearly worse than others. We are responsible for how bad we perceive events to be and it is within our control how we react to them. It is the attitudes and beliefs that we take to events (and not the events themselves), which determine whether we will be overwhelmed and become victims, or whether we will be resilient and recover. Our thoughts, emotions, behaviour and physiology are within our control.

When we are faced with unwelcome events and circumstances, we may often lose perspective and get things out of proportion; we may “awfulise” and “catastrophise”. We may see small events as catastrophes or awful when they are just the inconveniences, errors and frustrations of everyday life. If our responses are out of step with these small events, then we will have an even greater difficulty handling the truly bad events. With this in mind, here is an excellent technique for mental toughness.

It’s not the end of the world

“Awfulising” and “catastrophic thinking” are terms used in cognitive therapies which describe a tendency to exaggerate the negative aspects and consequences of past, present or future events. Awfulising and catastrophic thinking make serious events such as divorce, redundancy or injury even more distressing. This type of thinking can also occur with everyday events such as being late for an appointment, missing a phone call or someone being rude to us. We may “blow things up out of proportion” and what may be a minor irritation or event gets magnified; things can be seen as “horrible”, “terrible”, “awful”, “tragic” or “the worst that can happen”. We can quickly lose perspective and think, “we are doomed and it’s the end of the world!” Awfulising stems from rigid and demanding beliefs such as, “shoulds”, “musts” and “have to” that have been violated by or others, ourselves or life’s events.

Anti-Awfulising scale

In order to get things into a more realistic perspective and not see things worse than they are, we can use the anti-awfulising scale. This works by rating events from 0 – 99 in terms of how awful or catastrophic they seem. For example, if we say that at the low end of the scale, with an awfulness rating of 1, is sitting at home watching a bad movie whilst drinking cold tea, and at the other end of the scale with a rating of 99, is something truly awful and catastrophic such as a loved one dying, serious illness or being critically injured in an accident. Then we can rate other upsets in-between these extremes.

When upset about something we may initially give the event a high rating and see it as terrible and awful, but if we use the anti-awfulising scale we can then accept that this is an exaggeration and get a more realistic perspective on the situation. Changing our thinking will get our emotions, behaviour and physiology back in control. For example, we will be less likely to be angry, strike out and have raised blood pressure or be anxious, avoid people, similar situations and have panic attacks.

Most of the everyday events that upset us, will be nowhere near the 99 rating and may not even be as high as 5, such as missing the bus, losing a parking space or disagreeing with someone. When an event happens that is more distressing such as losing a job or a relationship ending, we may again give this an initial high score, over 85. However, in time and after some reflection we will once more be able to gain a clearer perspective and get things back into proportion. We will accept that we are not the first person to lose a job or a relationship and won’t be the last. Also we know that people do recover from these adverse events and find new relationships and jobs.

Anti-Awfulising Questions – Get some perspective!

Here are anti-awfulising questions, ask yourself

· Is this really awful or catastrophic?
· Where is it on the anti-awfulising scale?
· Is this really a disaster?
· Does anyone else really care about it?
· How would someone with a positive attitude view this problem?
· Will this matter in 3 years’ time, 1 year’s time, 1 week’s time, 1 hour’s time?
· What’s the worst that will happen and how likely is that?
· How is this catastrophising helping me to reach my goals?
· How does this awfulising make me feel better?
· What’s the good thing about this problem?
· How can I turn this to my advantage?
· Is this really the end of the world?

The fact is, that no matter how bad an event is - it could always be worse.
Use the anti-awfulising scale for mental toughness and get things into perspective and proportion

Life is tough, you are tougher
Stop awfulising. Stop catastrophising.
Stick with it, persevere, get a grip

Phil Pearl MCH

Author's Bio: 

Phil Pearl DCH DHP MCH GHR Reg

Phil Pearl, clinical hypnotherapist specialising in mental toughness and resilience - helping people to improve their confidence, self-esteem and overcome anxiety and stress. Hypnotherapy in London

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