Do you ruminate?

Do you ruminate?

Do you ruminate?

I am an overthinker. From things I’ve said, to what I’m going to have for dinner, I tend to overthink things. What I didn’t realize is that overthinking takes two forms: The first is worrying about potential future events and situations. The second is rumination, repetitive thoughts about negative past events or problems.

Why is rumination harmful?

When we ruminate, our thoughts about the past become overwhelming. We feel like we have no power over them. We can’t stop them. We obsess. We get stuck in negative thought loops and let uncomfortable emotions boil up inside us. This slowly chips away at our well-being and negatively impacts our mood and behavior.

Rumination leads to excessive self-criticism, indecisiveness, tension, fatigue, and lack of sleep (if you’ve ever been lying in bed, wide awake at 3am, thinking about something upsetting from the past, you can attest to this one). When ruminating becomes a habit, it becomes a big indicator of anxiety and depression.

How do you know if you ruminate?

Identify all that apply to you…

  • Repeated Thoughts: Do you find yourself thinking about the same issue over and over?
  • Focus on Problems: Do your thoughts often focus on problems or mistakes from the past?
  • Negative Emotions: Do these thoughts make you feel anxious, sad, or stressed?
  • Difficulty Letting Go: Do you struggle to shift your focus away from these thoughts?
  • Impact on Daily Life: Do these thoughts interfere with your daily activities or sleep?
  • Length of Time: Do you spend a significant amount of time (e.g., hours) ruminating?

If you frequently experience these symptoms, you may be prone to rumination.

Rumination can be triggered by a number of prior situations: stressful events, relationship conflicts, failure or rejection, uncertainty about the future — or simply the time you walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of your pants (speaking for a friend).

How to stop ruminating

1. Awareness

The first step to changing any behavior is awareness. When you catch yourself ruminating, acknowledge it without judgment. “I’m ruminating right now”.

2. Mindfulness

What does this feel like in your body? Bring yourself back to the present moment, take a deep breath, and do a body scan. Where in your body do you feel tense or stressed? Visualize each part of your body relaxing, starting at the top of your head and moving all the way to your toes.

3. Coaching

In my opinion, everyone could benefit from a therapist or a coach. When neither are available, we can actually coach ourselves.

Questions could include:

Is ruminating about this situation helpful?
Does continuing to dwell on this serve me in any way?
Is it possible that ruminating makes me feel like I’m doing something about the problem?
Could ruminating be a way of avoiding uncomfortable emotions?
Are there any patterns? (people, issues, mistakes, etc.)
What would be a more productive way to address the issue?

Moving Forward

Whatever will be, will be — and whatever has happened, has already happened. Rather than letting your negative thoughts of past experiences rob you of joy in the present, shift your attention to more positive moments.

Spend time actively visualizing things that made you laugh or feel good. Replay positive experiences and conversations in your mind. Marinate in acts of kindness, love and connection, and gratitude.

Rumination is just one of our brain’s many protection mechanisms. Your brain thinks that if it ruminates, it is doing something productive. You just have to give it something else to do instead.

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Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.

Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.

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