This post is sponsored by BetterHelp, the world’s largest professional therapy platform done online.

I think I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a child, way before I ever started going to therapy in my twenties. I am confident in this because my anxiety feels like an old friend who shows up in familiar ways. Yes, it’s grown up with me, but sometimes the spiraling thoughts I feel as a 31-year-old woman aren’t far off from what I felt when I was seven years old. 

One of the trademarks of my anxiety is something called catastrophizing or catastrophic thinking. According to the American Medical Association, this is when you have all-consuming thoughts about endless worst-case scenarios. 

While we all think about potential bad outcomes occasionally, catastrophizing is categorized as being more prevalent and ever-present. 

Find yourself catastrophizing? Here are some strategies for finding calm.

Personally, I think of it as when my anxiety jumps from A-to-Z without ever considering the middle letters as options or potential outcomes. But I am just one in millions of people who struggle with anxiety or who notice that catastrophizing is a reflex in their everyday lives. 

Whether you have a history of catastrophizing or are just realizing that this is something you cope with, here are a few strategies to reach for calm amid spiraling thoughts. 

Practice deep breathing 

There’s a reason why meditation apps are so popular: the deep breathing techniques they teach can actually help with your mental health. According to Harvard Medical Center, practicing deep breathing techniques can help calm your nervous system and distract your mind from overwhelming thoughts. 

Turn on your favorite song

Studies have shown that music has calming effects both in the short and long term. If your thoughts are spiraling, turn on a favorite playlist or even play a single song on a loop and outsource distracting your mind to your song of choice. In the long term, practices like sound baths or music that plays at 60 beats per minute have been shown to affect a person’s nervous system positively. 

Move your body 

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While moving your body may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re catastrophizing, organizations from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to the CDC encourage you to do just this. Any movement, even a brisk short walk, can help distance you from your spiraling thoughts. 

Turn to 5-4-3-2-1

Catastrophizing can lead to feeling very disconnected from your current reality. To tap back into your here and now, an exercise like the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise can help. The goal is to find five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you can taste. 

These four suggestions are great things that are within your reach and immediate control, but it’s also true that asking for help — whether from a friend or a therapist — is also an option. BetterHelp was founded to remove the traditional barriers to therapy and make mental health care more accessible to everyone. Get 20% off your first month here

Choosing healthy coping mechanisms on hard days isn’t always easy, but your future self will thank you.