Catastrophize

February 05, 2024 00:24:11
Catastrophize
Let's Be Diverse
Catastrophize

Feb 05 2024 | 00:24:11

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Hosted By

Andrew Stoute

Show Notes

Are you someone that wonders what is the worst that can happen in certain situation?

Andrew chats with Jenn Deal, a life and career coach for woman lawyers about why we think the worst about things and what we can do the to not catastrophize.

If you would like to reach out or connect with Jenn:

linkedin.com/in/jenn-deal-coaching

https://www.jenndealcoaching.com/

Get her Catasrophize workbook here - https://www.jenndealcoaching.com/catastrophizing

Thank you to our Bronze sponsors Lauren Henry with LMB Productions, Nicole Donnelly with DMG Digital, and Megan Tribble with the content Collaborative 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Opinions expressed in this episode are personal. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this streaming platform. [00:00:13] Speaker B: Good day, everyone, and welcome to another edition of let's be diverse. I am your host, Andrew Stout. This episode is dedicated to all my loved ones who supported me through this journey to catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion or thinking pattern that can be characterized by an exaggerated or irrational anterception of negative outcomes or events. People who catastrophize tend to imagine the worst case scenarios and blow them out of proportion, even when the likelihood of those scenarios happening is low. Today, our topic is catastrophize, and my very special guest today is Jen Deal. Jen is a brand protection attorney and a certified coach for women lawyers. As a life coach, she helps women lawyers who feel stuck, unfulfilled and overwhelmed create careers and lives that they love. Jen, to me, is one of the most passionate people that I have met and I am so lucky to have her as part of my community. Welcome to the show, Jen. It is so great to have you on today. [00:01:18] Speaker A: Thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here. [00:01:21] Speaker B: It is an honor to have you on here. What's going on in your world? What's happening? What's new? How's the weather? What's going on? [00:01:28] Speaker A: Weather is great. We are finally getting to that time of year. A little cold front here in the southeast, out in the 80s, so we can actually get outside and do some things again, which my dogs are also very happy about. They don't love the hot weather and not being able to take those walks. [00:01:44] Speaker B: Okay, and how's work? Busy. Lots going on. [00:01:48] Speaker A: Work is full. It's great. I'm doing a lot of different things that I love. [00:01:51] Speaker B: That is awesome. Great to hear that things are going well here in Canada. It's getting into the little bit of the colder season here as well. And we don't like to say that w word, but we know that it's coming around the corner here. We just start to brace ourselves in September, enjoying the last little bits of the warm weather. [00:02:10] Speaker A: We get about two weeks of winter where am so very different experiences. [00:02:15] Speaker B: Yes, absolutely. So it's good to hear that everything is going well on your end. Before we begin, I always have a fun question to ask my guests to get things going. Are you ready for yours? [00:02:28] Speaker A: Ready as I'll ever be. [00:02:29] Speaker B: Jen, my question is if a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be and who would play you? [00:02:37] Speaker A: Good one. Definitely a comedy. Okay, and who would play me? I'll tell you, very few people think I look like any celebrity, but the only comment I've ever gotten is Christina Applegate. So I might go with her, actually. [00:02:52] Speaker B: I could see that. Yeah. Christina Applegate looking at pictures and stuff I've seen on LinkedIn, I could see that for sure. And a comedy. So that would be pretty good. So she would play a lawyer, and I could see her playing a lawyer, too. [00:03:03] Speaker A: I think she'd be great at it. [00:03:04] Speaker B: She's very pretty. Yeah. And she seems like she can pretty much do different. I've seen her in different types of things. She's been in comedies and she's been in some kind of, like, drama type shows, and she does pretty well in both. So I think that's a pretty good choice. [00:03:20] Speaker A: Great question. [00:03:21] Speaker B: Yeah, great answer. For somebody who didn't know what the question was going to be ahead of time. He seemed pretty prepared. [00:03:27] Speaker A: I tell you. That's that lawyer training. We are used to being asked questions that we don't know if we know the answers to and answering on our feet. [00:03:34] Speaker B: That is true. I can definitely see that. So why don't we start off with you telling us a little bit about you and your story? [00:03:41] Speaker A: So, as you mentioned, I'm a lawyer, and I'm also a coach for lawyers. I've been a lawyer for, oh, gosh, I'm going to do this math for over a decade now. And I spent the first part of my career, first decade plus, at a big law firm down here in the southeast, handling trademark litigations and doing trial work in the trademark space. And the first few years, probably my first five or six years, were such a roller coaster. I loved a lot of it. And then I also experienced a lot of anxiety and a lot of self doubt and a lot of lack of confidence despite all objective measures. That said, I was doing just fine. And it got to a point where I really knew that I wanted outside help, that I wasn't managing it well on my own. And that's when I came across coaching for the first time back in, I think, 2018 or 2017, and no intentions of becoming a coach, but I loved all of the tools, and they really changed the way I felt about my career and the way that I showed up in my career. And then the pandemic hit, and while everybody else was learning how to make sourdough bread, I don't cook. So I got certified as a life coach because I love to learn. And I thought that maybe I could use those tools at my firm because I love to mentor younger associates. It was one of my favorite parts about the job. And then it became clear to me as I did it more and more that I loved it enough that I wanted to do it. And so now I spend part of my time lawyering and I spend part of my time coaching, and that's really the perfect balance for me. [00:05:10] Speaker B: So you mentioned before when I asked you your thought provoking question, that you are used to thinking on your feet. Do you find that coaching has helped you in that aspect? Because I could see people coming up with stuff and you having to think on your feet as far as how to help them or what to say, especially if they're at a low point, you're trying to boost them up. [00:05:35] Speaker A: That's a great question. I think the skills translate really well. There are some similarities. And then there was one big difference for me that I really had to learn. The similarities are that as a lawyer, it is not your job just to look at one side. You have to see the big picture. You have to understand what the other side's arguments are going to be, and you have to focus on seeing all of the angles, all of the risks. And when you're thinking about coaching and doing a lot of the mindset work, people come to you with a story or with a thought that's really dug in for them. And so being able to see evidence of the contrary or being able to ask really good questions like you might as a lawyer, I think is really helpful in the coaching space. The thing that was different for me is that as a lawyer, I'm used to giving advice. One and two. Typically when we ask questions, if you think about a deposition or think about a cross examination or something along those lines, you're trying to get a particular answer right and you've got a goal in mind, you've got an agenda. But when it comes to coaching, I don't ever know what's best for the client. And so my job is just to help them see what's happening in their head, help them decide what they want to do about it, and help them figure out the best way to do that for them. So I'm never giving advice. It's just an exploration of who they are, what they want to do, and what's in their own best interest. And I don't know that that's something they've got to figure out for themselves. [00:06:53] Speaker B: So as a guy who's in leadership and HR, I definitely feel like those two jobs definitely take some leadership skills and some of the things that, from what I've known. After talking with you a few times, I've noticed that you like to build rapport, and I feel that building rapport is going to give you trust and respect. I think that gives you great communication skills. It also allows you to listen, but not just listen with pause, letting them speak and letting them tell you exactly what's on their mind. Not just necessarily having to figure out an answer, but listening to let them talk. Maybe because they just need to get whatever is on their mind off their chest. [00:07:36] Speaker A: Yeah, for sure. I think everyone has different definitions of what good leadership is and what it means to them. And for me it was always about, and still is about creating a space where people felt like they could share to the extent they wanted to. Right. Because we all hold stuff back at work and I don't think that's a problem. But to share to the extent they wanted to what they were struggling with. And I also had no problem sharing. Right. I think a lot of leaders maybe shy away from talking about things that were hard for them or places where they made mistakes or weaknesses they thought they had and not ever been an issue for me. And I think that we can connect with folks that way so that they are better able to see themselves in us, to trust us. And also, I think your point about listening is such a good one. I think a lot of people tend to listen in preparation to speak, right. In preparation to add to the conversation and listening to the other person without that agenda of what am I going to say next? I think allows people, or makes people feel like they can be more open with you, they can be more honest with you. [00:08:44] Speaker B: Yes, absolutely. So, as I mentioned to our audience, our topic today is catastrophize. So what I would like to have you do is to explain to us what catastrophize means. [00:08:58] Speaker A: You did a pretty good job summing it up in the beginning. It's one of those words that first time I tried to say it, I was like, I don't know if I'm ever going to get this out of my mouth now. I've said it so often that it's a pretty easy one for me. But when you think about catastrophizing, what it is really to think about and get fixated on whatever that worst case scenario is, and when we do that, we tend to ruminate a lot about it and we play the scenario out over and over again in our head and we're not ever problem solving when we're in that catastrophizing space. Right. We're getting to the worst case scenario, and we're just cutting in it and spinning in it and imagining what it would feel like. And what I think is so interesting about our brain is that the thoughts that you are thinking have a direct impact on your emotions. They create emotions in your body. So if you're catastrophizing, and one of the most common ones I hear in the workplace is like someone sends you an email and says, stop at my office so we can chat. And of course, your immediate thought is, I'm going to get fired. [00:09:53] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:09:53] Speaker A: And when you're thinking that, your brain doesn't think in the future tense when it comes to your emotions. So you're experiencing the same kind of emotions that you would experience if you actually got fired, but you're experiencing them in the present when you haven't been fired, when nothing's actually gone wrong. And so you're creating this emotional experience for yourself with the way that you are thinking. And when you are in that mode where you are experiencing that panic or that anxiety or that shame in real time, you're very rarely able to take care of yourself or to make good decisions or to show up in the way that you want. And to me, it's one of those things where our brain thinks it's problem solving, right? It thinks it's being helpful. It thinks it's warning us of danger. But in reality, you're just creating this terrible emotional experience for yourself that's impacting the way that you show up and the way that you're feeling. It's generally unhelpful and unnecessary. [00:10:49] Speaker B: Do you think that leaders understand that people in a workplace could be thinking like that? [00:10:55] Speaker A: It's a really good question. I'd be interested. I'm always curious about this, how it would differ across industries, because I think in the legal industry, so we are taught in law school how to issue spot. So basically, you are given better grades if you can find out all the things that are going to go wrong. And so in a way, it's a good thing that our brain can get to that worst case scenario, but when we're not doing it for a client, we're doing it in our own lives. It's really unhelpful. So I think in the legal industry, if you are a person who is in leadership, you've probably done it yourself and you probably know that other people are doing it. But I think the problem is that people hold what they're thinking, feeling so close to the best. And so unless you're asking thoughtful questions or being really in tune with the folks that you're leading, it can be hard. And so I'd be interested in other fields where you're taking more risk or you're not looking for the worst case scenario in your everyday job. I'd be interested to know if it's as common there. I think it's a natural, normal human behavior, and so I'm sure it exists in every industry. I just wonder if there is more prevalence in those industries where it's really risk adverse. And part of your job is figuring out what the worst case scenarios are and protecting against those, because I'm sure. [00:12:12] Speaker B: There'S people listening, and I've been there a few times where you're in a situation where you're like, oh, my God, I made this huge mistake, and you're scared to go to show your boss and say, listen, look, I did this huge mistake. Can you help me? I have had discussions with people where they have had leaders that talked about that right from day one as far as when they're onboarding and their expectations that they had of the individual. And the leaders have said to them, listen, please, if there's something that went wrong, come and see me. Don't be afraid to come and see me, because for me, anything can be fixed, but I need you to tell me so that we can fix it. Don't hide it or don't be scared to talk about it. Just come and see me. And I think by doing that, I think I mentioned trust and respect, and I think the employee has that trust and respect, and maybe they have the confidence at that point, if something does come up that they can go and approach them to talk about. [00:13:14] Speaker A: Yeah. And it may not feel good. Right. No one wants to go in and tell their boss or their leader that they've made a mistake. But I do think that if you are given the space to make mistakes, which everyone is going to do, if you're given that space and it's acknowledged, this is probably a thing that's going to happen, come to me, we can fix it. Then the negative emotion that you're going to experience is going to be far less. If you feel like you can't go to anyone with this without some serious repercussions. [00:13:42] Speaker B: Right. And I think, too, we're talking about employees. You want them as a leader. You want people that you're bringing into your team to have a little bit of creativity, which when you have creativity, means that you are open to trying things. Not everything is going to work. Not everything is going to be in a positive nature. Some things are going to not go well, but at least you're not afraid to be creative and try new things. [00:14:09] Speaker A: Yeah, that's a great point. [00:14:10] Speaker B: Absolutely. So why do you think people catastrophize? [00:14:16] Speaker A: I think in part it's just the way that we have evolved. Right. If you think about our ancestors, we come from people who really were in imminent danger all of the time, right. And so our more primitive brains evolved to expect that worst case scenario and prepare us for it, because the worst case scenario was likely and deadly. Right. And so your brain was ready to run from lions and tigers and to help you prevent starvation and to keep you from wandering away from your group so you didn't get hurt. And so it was really a life saving ability. And in some ways we have kept some of that. The problem is just that our brain doesn't recognize now that email from our boss is not a lion or a tiger, right. That it's not this scary thing, that we're not in real danger. And that's not to say there are not people who are often in real danger, but for most of us in our everyday lives at work, we are just not facing lions and tigers, right. We're facing emails, we're facing colleagues that we don't like. We're facing a boss, maybe that yells at us, right? So we're not in real danger, but our brain still interprets it that way. And the other piece of it is, I think, that we forget that our brain's job is to keep us alive. Our brain is not there to keep us happy. Yes, we can use it to make ourselves happy, but at its core, its job is to keep us alive. And so some of the ways it does that is by trying to prevent bad things from happening. And again, I think we just don't always know our brain doesn't make that connection, that the bad thing that we are worried about is not as likely as we think it is. It's not as bad as we think it is. It's something we can handle because it's in that protective mode instead of the problem solving mode where you're using your. [00:15:59] Speaker B: Prefrontal cortex when you think about it, like you said, trying to prevent bad things, I know myself at home, my wife and I sometimes will do a little game, whatever, and we'll have fun and we'll say, okay, we talk about a scenario and we'll say, okay, what's something that could happen? Go. And then you say, okay, this could happen. And then they go, and then it is more of a fun thing. But some of the things, like we said earlier, there's not a chance that those are going to happen. There are some people who do have those thoughts that they just can't seem to get out of their brain and get away from. If you talk about HR, the two times that you see HR is when you start your job or if they're calling you because they're letting you go. So those are the two times that you primarily see them. It's very rare that they're going to call you and say, hey, you're doing a great job. It's the same thing like when we're in school, right when we got called to the principal's office, it's not because they want to tell you great job, it's because of something. So I think you're right. The brain is set back in the day, and I think it's probably somewhat, I think how we grew up or the situations that we grew up in, for sure. Yeah. Then you're living in an area where there's a lot of bad things that can happen when you're younger and you worry about your children being out late. Yeah. You're thinking of all kinds of scenarios of things that can happen. What do you think the best way is to respond to catastrophizing? [00:17:21] Speaker A: I don't think there is a best way. Here's what I have found when you're doing all of this work is that each of us is going to respond differently to different tools, and you as an individual are going to respond to different tools at different times. And so really, to me, a lot of it is, there's a bunch of tools out there. I talk about a lot of them, and they're far more than that. And so really just starting to experiment with what works for you. But I will tell you my two tips that are my go to tips. One is a mindset based tip and one is mindset, but that's like a sort of practical tip for you. So I'll start with the latter. So one of my favorite exercises to run through is because when you are spinning in that worst case scenario, that is all your brain is thinking of. And the more you think about it, the more likely it feels. And so the first piece of this is to ask yourself, what is the worst case scenario? We already know what that is. Right. Your brain is spinning in it, and then you're going to ask yourself two more questions. The, the second one is, what is the best case scenario? Now, you're probably not going to believe that the best case scenario is going to happen, right? If you think you're going to get fired, you're probably not going to believe that you're about to get a promotion. But just creating a little bit of space in your brain to show it that there are other options than that worst case scenario adds a little perspective and can help you turn the dial down on the negative emotion that you're feeling. And then the third question is, what are the most likely scenarios or the most likely scenario? Because a lot of times we just gloss over that, right? And maybe the most likely scenario still has some consequences to it, still has some things that we don't want to deal with, but it's better than that worst case scenario. And it can, again, give us some perspective that, okay, my brain is making up this story, but that's not the only alternative. And when you have other alternatives, then it can calm down the negative emotion and you're giving your brain a problem to solve, which is what it's trying to do when it's catastrophizing. The other piece that I think is really important for people is people who catastrophize or have a lot of anxiety have so much judgment around it. Right? They have so much self judgment. I shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't be thinking like this. I know this is silly. Why am I like this? And when you have all of that self judgment, you've already got all this negative emotion from the catastrophizing, and then you add that shame on top of it, and it just makes everything bigger. It doesn't allow for you to focus on and solve the catastrophizing because you're too busy judging yourself. And so really, the thing that I work with clients on a lot in the very first instance is removing some of that shame. Right. This is a totally normal human behavior. Your brain is doing what it thinks it's supposed to be doing to protect you. There's nothing wrong with you. This isn't a problem. It's just something that is happening in your brain that we want to work to figure out. And so taking away some of that shame and the self judgment and really being kind to yourself and creating a space for compassion and learning. [00:20:16] Speaker B: Yeah. So the brain is in protection mode. It's trying to protect you from, like you said, some of the things that could possibly happen. So it's doing its job. Yeah. [00:20:26] Speaker A: It may not be doing it the way that you want it to, and you can switch that around. But there's nothing wrong with you. Your brain is doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing, which is trying to keep you safe and alive. [00:20:36] Speaker B: I love your three points there. What is the worst case scenario? What is the best case scenario, and what is the most likely scenario? Those are three really good tips, I think, to follow, because I think asking even myself, as you were saying it, I was just thinking of not necessarily something bad, but as you were saying it, I was thinking of something in each thing that you were saying, and it made me feel better right away because I'm like, oh, okay, I guess the most likely thing is going to be this, right? And there was nothing that was in my head that was bad, but just. [00:21:10] Speaker A: Like, practicing it and it feels a little lighter. [00:21:14] Speaker B: Yeah, I think practicing it probably is probably a good thing that you probably suggest as well. [00:21:21] Speaker A: Yeah, I think it's all an experimentation, right. To figure out what works best for you. We're all a little bit different, for sure. [00:21:28] Speaker B: If you could choose one word to describe yourself, what word would that be? [00:21:34] Speaker A: Frankly, because it's a far harder question than the first one I didn't know anything about, and we're all multifaceted. But I've been thinking on this one, and I think that the word that I would choose also aligns with one of my core values, which is curiosity. I love to learn about people. I love to learn how things work. I love to learn new things. I've always got questions about anything anyone says or anything that I see, and I think it's a quality that serves me really well, both as a lawyer and as a coach. [00:22:04] Speaker B: I love that word for you. I think that fits into both the things that you do. Being a lawyer and a coach, I definitely agree with you. I thought about it, too, and I would probably say, if I was going to think of a word for you, I would definitely say innovative, because being a lawyer, a lot of people I think would be like, oh, I'm a lawyer, I'm going to stick with it, or what have you. And even if it wasn't going well or you weren't busy, they stick with it, whereas you, you're like, you know what? I need to do something else. What can I do? And sounds like you did a little bit of research, figured out that this would go hand in hand, and you made it work. It's easy to transition. I would say innovative for you would be another word. [00:22:45] Speaker A: I appreciate that. [00:22:47] Speaker B: Any final thoughts today? [00:22:48] Speaker A: I think the only thing, and I know I mentioned this already. But it's at the core of the work that I do and the thing that I think that matters most in catastrophizing and any kind of personal development is just creating that space for yourself to recognize your own humanity. Right? If you're thinking about leadership, if you're thinking about personal development, professional development, I think that there is always space in there for you to take away some of the self judgment and show yourself some compassion, because we are all learning, and at the end of the day, we are all human beings. [00:23:26] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. And we're all going to make mistakes. So I think the sooner that we understand that, the better that we will be. We're going to try stuff. If you're afraid to try something, then you're never going to know. So just try it and see how it goes. So on behalf of myself and my guest, Jen, I would like to thank you all for listening today. And until next time, be safe. And remember that if we all work together, we can accomplish. [00:23:55] Speaker A: You have been listening to let's be diverse with Andrew Stout. To stay up to date with future content, hit subscribe.

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