Who hasn’t at one time or another been captured by catastrophic thinking? With shelter in place being the norm since March 2020 and families sequestered at home, who has not had an anxious thought? Whether it is the stress of not being able to have a high school graduation, what do with your preschooler, how to cope with zoom being furloughed or let go from a job, experiencing a break up or  a fight with a loved one or facing a natural disaster  anxiety and worry can sometimes flood our minds causing us to feel anxious, immobilize and sleepless. We know all too well that depression , anxiety and substance misuse is up and that sometimes we just cannot stop these thoughts from flooding our brains.

One of the best strategies to curb our anxiety is thought stopping, a strategy that interrupts our brain, gives us a few moments of breathing space, and some clarity to think through what is really happening in the moment.

Here are 8 ways to do this:

1. If you are worried about a loved one who is treatment and are future forecasting|
a. Ask is he/ she /they safe this moment
b. Are they getting the help they need
c. Are you getting the help you need
d. Are you safe this moment
e. Take a Breath
f. Look in the mirror and repeat -all is well

2. Scattered Counting- Scattered Alphabet
Counting random numbers forward and backward  as well as saying the alphabet backwards is a great way to interrupt ones thinking. With counting start with any number like 18, 73, 2, 45, 16 as it takes more concentration to come up with the numbers.

3. Take a Listening Break
Sometimes our thoughts are so loud that the only way to drown them off is by listening to something louder that makes us focus. Put on your favorite song (Tina Turner’s Proud Mary is Mind) or your Favorite Podcast (try Vitamin Joy or whatever you like or an audio book that you have been meaning to hear. Let the sound coming out of your head phones or your computer drown out the ramblings in your head

4. Verbal Interruption
Talking out loud is a good thing. This is the traditional way of thought stopping. If you feel comfortable shout out loud ,”STOP”, “ENOUGH” , NOT NOW . this can be repeated as much as you like.

5. What’s the worst thing that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?
Often catastrophic thinking takes us down disaster lane and pity path alley. What is the worst thing that can happen. How would you address it? Who could you call on for help? What kind of plan can you make to revamp your resume, your life. Picturing yourself tacking the worst possible scenario gives you confidence that you would be able to handle that

6. Work those Muscles
Isolate; Anxiety may want us to hid away from others yet the only kind of isolation that is beneficial is Muscle Isolation. Heres what you can do
a. Sit down comfortably on a Chair or edge of a bed.
b. Close your eyes if you wish
c. Starting with your toes -Squeeze-Hold those muscles and count to 5 slowly
d. After 5 release the muscles and your toes feel completely relaxed
e. this process up your body from your feet to your calves
f. From your calves to your thighs
g.From your thighs to your abdomen
h. Go slowly all the way up to your head and back down to your Arms , hands and fingers
i.This exercise will relieve some tension in your brain by releasing it from your body

7. Mindful Meditation  (It Really does work)
I was never much for mediation. I rolled my eyes and thought not me. My first introduction was a course I took at the University of  California ,San Diego  following knee replacement . I needed something to calm my anxious mind. I rolled my eyes thinking that would never work for me and it did though I was not yet a believer. What I learned by trying a lot of different aps and exercises is that Meditation Works (Calm, Headspace ,Happy, Deprak Chopras 21 Days Of Abundance) .Science tells us that regular mediation changes the structure of the brain and stregthens your ability to tackle strong emotions like anxiety. Start  by practicing Mindful breathing for 5 minutes a day. You can picture your anxious thoughts like clouds drifting by or cars passing on the road . You can work up to 10 , 15 or 20 minutes or try one of the apps I have suggested.

8. Practicing Gratitude
The scientist Emmons has taught us that if we practice or write a gratitude journal daily  it will change how we look at the world and we will have a more optimistic attitude. Try writing 3 things you are grateful for each day morning and night. If you find yourself having an anxious moment ,:
a. Yell Stop
b. Grab a paper and Pencil
c. Write down what you are Grateful For in that Moment
d. Share it with a friend

9. Be Of Service
Probably the best thing to take our mind off of what we catastrophize about is to be of service to someone else. One can be of service in so many ways , here are just a few
a. Volunteer on a hotline or buy groceries for someone older who can’t go to the store
b. Take a volunteer position in a group you belong to
c. Thank the grocery clerk, the fireman, the maintenance crew, the bus driver etc. for their service
d. Buy the person behind you that up of coffee or tea
e. Help someone cross the street

10. Give yourself a hug
When you hug yourself and Say , I am ok .I am a good Person , one kicks in dopamine that feel good part of our Brain. Practice Hugging yourself. Count to 10 and Kick those endorphins in

11. Call a Friend
Create a plan with a friend or two that is ok when you are feeling scared or anxious that will take your call.

12. Create a Safety Plan
Using the tools and strategies suggested here create your own safety plan and please remember that is you choose there are also wonderful professionals who can also be part of your Plan. Always remember you are worthy.

Truth is when anxiety hits, it is challenging to give up those obsessive catastrophic what if  thoughts that take you down doomsday alley and consume your attention like a Bad movie. I know that is an uncomfortable no good very bad experience yet with Practice and more practice using thought stopping exercises you can begin to change the trajectory of your brain

If you have a different technique or strategy please share!  You may also find this helpful as well: https://www.halffullnotempty.com/thought-stopping-worksheet/


  • Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

    Writer, Speaker, Clinician, Interventionist

    Dr. Louise Stanger founded All About Interventions because she is passionate about helping families whose loved ones experience substance abuse, mental health, process addictions and chronic pain. She is committed to showing up for her clients and facilitating lasting change so families are free from sleepless, worrisome nights. Additionally, she speaks about these topics all around the country, trains staff at many treatment centers, and develops original family programs. In 2018, Louise became the recipient of the Peggy Albrecht Friendly House Excellence in Service Award. She most recently received the Interventionist of the Year Award from DB Resources in London and McLean Hospital - an affiliate of Harvard University, in 2019. To learn more, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDf5262P7I8 and visit her website at allaboutinterventions.com.