Fall has officially arrived in California and and so have the Santa Anas. Just in case you don't know what those are, Santa Ana's are strong dry winds that blow from the desert of Nevada all the way to the ocean. And since So Cal gets very little rain during the summer months, these winds can really fan wildfires. Whenever, I see Santa Ana winds in the weather forecast, I get very nervous. The automatic thought that pops into my mind is that there could be wildfires and that my home will burn down.
My clinician at the autism center and I have been working on what she call's deflecting thoughts. We have been going about this by creating a thought record where I document the situation, my automatic negative thought, evidence which supports that thought and evidence which does not. So when Santa Ana winds are in forecast and I begin catastrophizing the situation with very negative thoughts like a wildfire destroying my home, I go through the process of rationalization. Evidence which supporting my deflecting thought is the fact that Santa Ana winds are known to cause major wildfires that destroy homes. Evidence that does not support this negative thought is that there is a very slim chance of a wildfire breaking out around my home. And even if there was a fire, there is a fire station close by and we have done brush clearance around the house.
By filling out a thought record, I am able to see situations that cause me anxiety more clearly and rationally. In the last section of the thought record, I fill out the new more rational alternative thought that I have once I have gone through the process. So for the situation with the Santa Ana winds, I have come to the realization that my home has a near zero chance of being destroyed by wind driven fires. I also remind myself that other areas around the United States have their own set of hazards. For example, the Midwest and Texas get tornadoes and the South is prone to hurricanes. While I going through this process makes me feel better about Santa Ana winds and wildfires, it would sure be nice if California got some very badly needed rain
This thought redirection therapy can be applied to situations other than weather anxieties. I am learning to use this process whenever I have conflicts with friends, family or co workers or anything else that makes me upset or anxious. Like all other therapies, though, processing and retraining my thoughts takes time and practice.