Monday, June 5, 2017

Catastrophizing and the Sweat Lodge Cafe

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. It's a coffee shop I frequent, although I haven't been here in a few weeks because I was in NYC for work and then the kids were scratching my ankles for a week while daycare was out of session for Memorial Day and Shavuot.

Now, I'm sitting here, watching the clock countdown because I've got to leave and get to a meeting at 10 a.m. The coffee shop is baking, and I probably shouldn't have even stayed because it's uncomfortably warm.

"It's a new thing we're trying," the barista jokes. "The big shvitz!"

I start conceptualizing. There are cat cafes and rat cafes and maybe there should be sweat lodge cafes.

I've been here about an hour after the longest daycare drop-off ever, and I've got basically two weeks of work to catch up on.

And now, there's someone, or something, tumbling around on the roof. Two of the baristas went outside about 20 minutes ago to try and figure out what it was.

"I don't see a ladder," one said. "So that's weird."

The tumbling and banging is right above my head, and I'm conceptualizing again. Or, rather, I'm catastrophizing.

I can't remember where I read the term, but I immediately realized that there's a name for what I've always called Sense of Impending Doom Syndrome, or SIDS for short. Yes, I know there's already a thing called SIDS, but there we are.

I have this ridiculous tendency, and I've been like this since I was a teenager. I might have started this even younger, but I remember it becoming somewhat debilitating as a teenager.

What I do, is I calculate and conceptualize every possible negative outcome of a situation. Some people do this with major things like skydiving or flying, but I do this with the every day, the minute moments that most people don't even think about. I do this walking down a sidewalk, where, for example, if I see a crack in the pavement I assess the options of what could happen.

  1. I could trip and fall flat on my face and chip my front teeth. Or they could fall out. 
  2. I could trip and fall and end up in the street, getting run over by a car. 
  3. I could trip and fall and break my wrist trying to break my fall. 
You get the gist. It's anxiety to the nth

So here I am, catastrophizing. Anticipating the inevitable reality that this person is probably working with heavy machinery right above me and will fall through the ceiling, crushing me, as I sit here narrating the entire incident. Will I be able to hit Publish before he hits me? Will I die? Will this be my last great gift to the world? 

Or will I make it to my 10 a.m. meeting?

Wherever I read this term, this concept of catastrophizing, there was another concept discussed. Instead of pondering all of the negative outcomes, consider the positive outcomes. 

Now, how exactly do I get myself in the headspace to do that. And if I were in that headspace, what would the outcome be? 

I'm seriously stream of conscious writing this here, and I just realized that the guy on the roof is probably fixing the A/C, which is probably why it's a million degrees in here, and if he fixes it, then I won't be baking and that would be awesome. Yay positive outcomes! On the other hand, by the time he gets it running I'm probably going to be out of here at my 10 a.m. meeting.

Either way, a sweat lodge cafe is a terrible idea.