Rumination and how to get rid of it:
Have you ever felt stuck in a loop of the same distressing, intrusive thoughts?
Perhaps you fixated on an embarrassing situation or a rude comment someone made no matter how hard you tried to suppress these memories?
Or maybe you tend to worry about the future, expecting the worst-case scenario to happen?
If that sounds familiar, chances are you’re facing rumination, which is the relentless replay of negative thoughts detrimental to your mental health in the long run.
In this blog post, you can learn what rumination is precisely and how it affects your well-being. We also share practical tips and techniques to stop ruminating, so let’s delve into this topic together.
What is Rumination?
Rumination can both heighten the risk of struggling with a mental health problem, and it is also a common symptom of:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),
- eating disorders (ED),
Those going through difficult life challenges such as a period of heightened stress or have perfectionistic tendencies are also prone to ruminating, which can take on different forms, depending on each individual.
- If you struggle with social anxiety, you might ruminate on an awkward conversation you had with someone at a party.
- Are you a perfectionist? If so, you’re most likely to get stuck on a negative piece of feedback from a professor at your university or a coworker.
- Let’s say your friend has an eating disorder. They’re probably prone to ruminating on their body image or food restriction.
How Does Rumination Affect Mental Health?
Rumination is a serious issue that can significantly interfere with your happiness and negatively impact your mental health, causing:
- aggravated symptoms among those with depression
- heightened risk of struggling with depression and anxiety
- low self-esteem (which intensifies ruminating)
- persistent feelings of guilt and shame
- tendency to isolate
- poor focus and memory.
Fortunately, you can implement a positive change in your life through the use of tools and techniques to stop ruminating for good.
5 Techniques to Stop Rumination
Accept Your Struggle
Ruminative thoughts are usually uncomfortable and disturbing, so the urge to suppress or avoid them is understandable. However, that will only worsen the problem, acting like glue for your thoughts, getting them stuck in your head. Try it for yourself – whatever you do, do not picture a purple giraffe.
Instead, if you want to stop ruminating, open up emotionally and accept your negative thoughts, flaws, or mistakes you tend to fixate on. Rather than dwelling on those things and falling into the spiral of self-loathing, try to embrace them as a natural part of human existence or a blessing in disguise.
Coming to terms with and accepting your unwanted thoughts or emotions means acknowledging the problem, which is a good place to start. Research also shows how beneficial it is, i.e.:
- greater life satisfaction
- higher psychological well-being
- lower symptoms/risk of depression or anxiety
- decreased emotional reactivity
- better stress management skills
Recognize Your Triggers
Step into the role of a scientist in your life, observing your mood level, behaviors, and internal events like thoughts and feelings. Whenever you catch yourself ruminating, pause to take note of what time it is, where you are, with whom, and what happened that might have triggered the disturbing thoughts.
Recognizing the triggers is essential in developing techniques to stop ruminating:
- If you ruminate after a sleepless night, it’ll be vital to prioritize your sleep habits.
- If you set unrealistic goals for yourself due to perfectionism, you’re more prone to rumination before a job interview.
Whatever your scenario might be, knowing your triggers will allow you to plan ahead and be prepared. Taking action will also help you feel more in control. However, keep in mind that it’s a double-edged sword since, at times, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go and surrender.
Meditation and mindfulness are some of the best tools you can learn to stop ruminating. When engaging in these practices regularly, you can:
- more easily check in with yourself, notice your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations,
- build self-awareness of your unhelpful patterns and ruminative cycles,
- gain distance and mental space to calm down,
- lessen the impact of negative thinking.
When you’re bothered by a distressing thought, i.e., “I am such a pathetic failure that I can’t even look at myself“, try imagining that this comment is just a leaf swimming down the river, passing you by and disappearing.
Remember: thoughts are not facts; they’re simply thoughts.
Whenever ruminative thoughts seriously interfere with your daily life, choose a healthy distraction without second-guessing yourself. It can help shift your focus and break the cycle.
It can be something that brings you joy or a simple daily chore, i.e.:
- cleaning in the kitchen
- folding laundry
- exercising (which effectively decreases rumination while improving your mood)
- go for a walk in nature
Talk to a Friend
If you ruminate, you’re more likely to withdraw socially and isolate. It makes sense, considering the lower mood and constant discomfort due to the negative thoughts, but it only leads to struggling with loneliness.
Keeping in touch with your close friends and loved ones is vital. If you let them, they’ll listen to you and help you get through this together.
Start small and confide in a friend you trust. Their perspective might help you get out of a negative spiral and feel more understood.
Get Professional Help with Harbor Psychiatry
Rumination is a complex issue to face, so remember that you don’t have to do it alone.
While talking to a friend might provide temporary relief, reaching out to a therapist and getting professional support can help you make a long-lasting positive change.
Thanks to psychotherapy, you get the opportunity to:
- identify the triggers and root cause of your thoughts
- replace unhelpful beliefs with healthy alternatives
- learn techniques to stop ruminating
Don’t hesitate and contact us today.