Yes, it’s a verb: catastrophize. It means to make things worse than they actually are. Just to be clear, a catastrophe is an event that causes great damage and suffering. Think plane crashes, war, extreme weather, wildfires, epidemics, etc. These are catastrophes.
My life isn’t a catastrophe. Nothing in it is catastrophic.
Something in me, however, likes to dramatize my own inconveniences and little disappointments, my own minor aches and obstacles, to the level of catastrophe.
Catastrophe! Give me attention! It’s a catastrophe!
My bad circumstances (today it’s knee pain and grumpy children) become everything in my mind; they cloud my mood and bring in hopelessness and fear, and they aren’t anywhere near the level of catastrophic.
In my family, we talk about not catastrophizing. It’s irrational, unfair, and pretty selfish to elevate whatever inconveniences we experience to the level of anything other than what they are: inconveniences, setbacks, and disappointments.
This means we put our complaints in their proper place. We move on with our day, pushing forward against this thing that isn’t a catastrophe at all. Somewhere in the world, very real catastrophes assault very real people in very real neighborhoods.
We stop catastrophizing by taking a deep breath and putting any pain into the right context. We’ll get through this.